Last year, I successfully bid on a one-night stay at any Club Quarters hotel location in the world. A few months ago, we realized that the certificate was about to expire. While a quick jaunt to London would have been delightful, we opted for the slightly easier route to New York. My husband’s best friend, Jeff, and his girlfriend, Erika, live in the City and this was the perfect opportunity to visit with them and get some great New York eats.
After some discussion, we decided to try New York’s outpost of the popular Mission Chinese Food for lunch. It was a risky move as the restaurant does not take reservations. We figured we’d give it a try and had a back up plan just in case the wait seemed outrageous. Danny Bowien recently opened the NYC location of this “Americanized Oriental food” in a “dive bar setting.” In fact, it made Zagat’s list of the 10 Hottest Restaurants in the World in January.
We drove into the city on a sunny Saturday and quickly found parking just a block away from the restaurant. We descended the stairs into a cramped waiting area where patrons could either order take out or put their name in for a table. As it turned out, the wait was only 15-20 minutes long, said the hipster gentleman at the counter. We grabbed some menus and plotted out our meal. After no more than 10 minutes, we were seated. The tables are jammed in pretty tightly–you don’t even have to strain to eavesdrop on your neighbors (or to check out their food)–score!
Of course I wanted every single noodle dish on the menu. I restrained myself and we stuck to two noodle dishes, one small and one large dish.
First came the BBQ pigtails.
This is the perfect example of “Americanized Oriental” food, although it certainly leaned more to the American side of the spectrum. This was a generously sized “small dish” and the pork tails were meaty, fatty and messy. Pretty much everything you’re looking for in BBQ. It came with a killer potato salad and plain roll to sop up the juices. This would be a great dish to share because I had my fill after just one lil’ piggy tail.
Next up was the kung pao pastrami. This was THE dish we had heard about and it was one of those ones that sounds too interesting not to order, ya know? My husband was a bit concerned about the two alarm heat factor–the dish contains “explosive chili.” I reminded him that he has handled tastings at Han Dynasty so two alarms should be no biggie.
I was right.
Not only was this dish surprisingly lacking the promised “explosive chili,” I literally could not pick up one iota of heat. The pastrami was tasty, albeit sparing, and I always like a good peanut, but this dish was generally disappointing.
We couldn’t decide between the spicy peanut noodles and the egg egg noodles so of course we got both.
The peanut noodles came with braised lamb neck, cucumbers, chili oil and mint. The description was pretty close to our beloved dan dan noodles from Han Dynasty.
The noodles were good. Nice sauce, the cucumber and mint gave it a refreshing crunch. I could have gone without the dry braised lamb neck on the side though. In my opinion, Han Dynasty’s version edged this one out though. I had higher hopes for the egg egg noodles–egg noodles with a soft-cooked hen egg.
This one had a nice flavor, although if we had to pick, we would have gone with the peanut noodles instead. While two noodles dishes isn’t necessarily overkill, these flavor profiles were a little too closely aligned. Additionally, I prefer my noodles a little less al dente in a dish like this.
Looking back, it seems like I enjoyed my lunch less than I actually did. I would go back and try some other things–the salt cod fried rice seemed to be the darling of neighboring diners. It was also just a fun atmosphere. If you twisted my arm and forced me to choose at this point, I’d rather devour a bowl of dan dan noodles and spicy crispy cucumbers any day of the week.
After lunch, we strolled around the neighboring Little Italy and grabbed a few snacks for later.
Because, you know, who doesn’t need a little rice ball in her life?
On our way back to the car, we stopped at an artisanal popcorn shop. We got popcorn for my parents and for the dog, of course. This is New York, after all. We then grabbed a late afternoon beer flight at the awesome Top Hops Beer Shop which has an extensive rotating tap list, with the opportunity to create your own flight of any four beers, and a take out bottle selection in the back. Perfect way to end the afternoon. Next up, dinner!
One thought on “Mission Chinese Food”
This account yields a “wish I wuz there” impulse from this reader. Over to you, Dr. Clary!