Mission Chinese Food
Mission Chinese Food took both coasts by storm and has left the food scenes in SF and NY reeling. Whether you love it or hate it, no one can discuss the hottest, most influential new restaurants anymore without the Mission name front and center. We love its super casual, divey laid-back vibe, it’s off-the-cuff feel, the bargain prices and the unconventional twist on conventional Asian cuisine. We also love that GW always hooks us up when we visit (check him out: http://sf.eater.com/archives/2012/11/08/mission_chinese_foods_greg_wong_on_four_hour_waits.php)! Woot woot!
We’ve taste-tested the greater portion of the menu (either through our own gluttonous over-ordering or through GW’s generosity), so I’ll build for you my perfect dinner here, based on our favorites from our latest visit.
Start your meal as if you’re at a traditional Chinese banquet, with Beijing vinegar peanuts with smoked garlic, anise and rock sugar. Salty, nutty and sweet, with just the right amount of crunch. The delicious soft garlic was a particular weakness of mine (lucky ATO)!
Another small snack to start: the fresh and crisp “smashed” cucumbers with salted chili, sesame paste and garlic.
Next, move on to the braised pea greens with adzuki beans, Old Bay, boiled peanuts and pumpkin broth. We were all pleasantly surprised, and a bit taken aback, by the layers and depth of flavor of this dish. YUM.
My favorite of the night: the Taiwanese clams with soy caramel, basil, potatoes and fried garlic. Savory and absolutely scrumptious. Finding each huge chunk of broth-soaked potato was like discovering gold on a treasure hunt.
Finally, soak it all in with a big bowl of carbs: spicy peanut noodles with chopped lamb brisket, cucumbers and chili oil. The various flavors mixed and melded into a vigorous and wonderful bowl of noodles.
Bonus: If you’re a big fan of the super peppery Sichuan-style cuisine and love the way it numbs your mouth and stings your tongue (EW and ATO!), here’s a couple of additional dishes you’ll love.
The spicy buckwheat noodles with horseradish, cucumbers, bean sprouts and mala vinegar definitely delivers the kick that its description promises.
The tingy tea smoked chicken with chili sediment, Sichuan pepper, black vinegar and peanuts will definitely knock all your taste buds out!
Double bonus: best “leftovers for breakfast” dish goes to the clean and simple Westlake rice porridge with sweet shrimp, braised beef, egg and cilantro.
One more thing to love about Mission Chinese: the very cool red dragon crawling beneath the ceiling!
Brunch at Home (featuring Russ & Daughters)!
My parents were in town so we decided (for once) to invite them over for a “home-cooked” meal! Brunch, of course. It’s the only meal I really ever host. I like the flexibility (and ease!) of serving eggs or sandwiches or both. I’m definitely not ambitious or crazy enough to tackle dinner.
I have a set formula for hosting brunch. Buy a bunch of classic NY bagels, pick up a variety of yummy cream cheese, splurge on some high-end smoked fish, gather a couple other fun toppings and bake two quiches (plus or minus a couple minor adjustments for each specific brunch). It’s making a meal without much cooking (just assembling)… what I do best!
So here’s revealing all the brunch tricks I have up my sleeve…
First stop, Russ & Daughters. A New York institution that’s been around almost 100 years in the Lower East Side. I have to say, I love Zabar’s more than anyone I know, and it is one of my most favorite places in this whole city. But when it comes to smoked fish and other like specialties, Russ & Daughters takes the cake.
Expect a line, a crowd… probably both. Expect to be overwhelmed by choices. Expect to be delighted by the offerings.
I mean, just look at that selection of caviar! Where fish eggs go to die, and New Yorkers go for take-out luxury ;-).
So here’s what we ended up taking home on this trip. For our little starters, we’ve got wasabi-infused flying fish roe and smoked trout mousse. Spread on crackers or bagels. Equally good either way. In fact, the flying fish roe was delicious on just about everything - just ask my dad who was putting it on his smoked nova. Also pictured is the veggie and plain cream cheese from Russ & Daughters (even their cream cheese is better than most!).
Mmmm…. carbs!! The stage for all the toppings. The bialys at Russ & Daughters are freakin amazing! Best in the city.
A closer look at the smoked sable and the classic Gaspe nova smoked salmon. Beautiful. We’ve had the Western nova and the Scottish before as well, but the Gaspe nova - so mild and rich - has the widest appeal and is always a crowd pleaser! Sliced perfectly thin for ultimate enjoyment. And ATO audibly sighed with happiness at his first bite of smoked sable. Sooooo good.
Quiche and salad go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here’s my simple go-to salad: fresh, slightly bitter arugula tossed with crisp, sweet apples and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add blue cheese to taste. This Long Clawson blue was the PERFECT blue for this salad. It had just the right amount of bite and saltiness to creaminess ratio. Recommended to me by Murray’s Cheese. Love that place. Spot on suggestions.
Here’s my culinary crowning glory. Quiche. The one out of three things I know how to make. I’ve mastered my quiche-making skills over the years and come up with these recipes by trial and error. My classic-style quiche: caramelized onions, scallions, pancetta (sometimes I sub with turkey bacon, real bacon or ham, or sometimes I go sans meat) and smoked Dutch gouda. Throw it all into a Fresh Direct whole wheat pie crust, toss in some eggs mixed with milk, and bake til done. Voila! Bubbling hot melty quiche is served. I love it, I love it, I love it!!
Here’s another look at my quiche. I get two pics since it’s such a rare occasion when I cook. This one is a new development for me, but it’s probably my most successful and my best received. Jumbo lump crab with fresh asparagus, fresh spinach and Parmesan. Lighter and a bit more vibrant than the other version. What can I say? I make good quiche! :-).
And sometimes it’s just the little things that make the difference. Like good juice. I’ve discovered a love for Sir Real juice - it tastes fresh-squeezed, like a lovely hot summer day on a farm. It’s also less sugary than your typical Tropicana; especially the grapefruit juice (above), which is refreshingly tart and tangy.
We had a lot of leftovers. I’ve never been good at portion-controlling for a set number of people. But have no fear: no leftovers were left behind!
Saturday night dinner club boozy dinner at WD-50. The “New School” is one of my favorite drinks in the city: peanut butter sake, white vermouth and raspberry. It’s a surprisingly delicious and potent liquid pb&j! The meal itself was a bit hazy because we wanted to try all the cocktails on their menu. I chose 3 appetizers for dinner, starting with the eggs benedict. Wylie’s favorite food is eggs and this was just one weird salty mess if you ask me! Quite disappointing. He redeemed himself in my eyes with the peekytoe crab roll, salt ‘n vinegar chips and celery mayonnaise - the roll was made out of a pressed hot dog bun and gave the dish a nice comfort factor.
Speaking of which, my third appetizer was the cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco and caviar (except I got some sort of grains cos I don’t eat caviar). The tabasco was a bit overpowering, but the cold fried chicken was an awesome twist.
ATO had his favorite appetizer there, the corned duck, rye crisp, purple mustard and horseradish cream (which is like an upscale Katz’s sandwich) and he had the duck breast, black sesame dumplings, red cabbage and parsnip consommé for a main. While the dumplings were a bit gummy, the rest of the dish came together in a happily unexpected and not-too-sweet way. That’s the fun part about WD - dishes may be hit or miss but they are always original and innovative. And after dinner they gave us a little private tour of the very cool kitchen!