Well, I finally did it. I went to Mission Chinese Food. Everyone fucking loves it there (sorry, it deserved the F bomb). I’m not going to bore many of you, since you are likely already familar with the story (for those of you who aren’t, you can 1), buy their book — yes, that’s how late to the game I am — there’s an actual book already published; or 2), read here. The gist of the gist is that it’s not really authentic Chinese food — but it uses great ingredients and messes with old Chinese dishes, to come out with something rather delectable, enticing, often fiery, and consistently delicious.
In theory, I have a hard time going to non-authentic Chinese restaurants. But the truth of the matter is (and maybe this makes me even more Chinese), I love all Chinese food. Even crap Panda Express Chinese food. So it’s not like I was cutting off any familial ties to China (of which I have about two, literally two people and they are half-somethings-or-others), when I walked into the door with my husband (who I consider more authentically Chinese than me, mostly because he can speak Mandarin and has eaten dog — in China, of course — before) and our friend (who lives in Hong Kong, was returning there the next day, probably making you ponder why we would send him off with a farewell Chinese meal).
Here’s what was up:
The savory egg custard with uni, scallop, winter melon, citron.
The Westlake rice porridge. I don’t know that I realized what this was when I ordered it, but it’s basically the child of an affair between traditional Westlake soup (and all that cilantro) and jook (rice porridge). This one did not include the fried donuts for jook, but traded up for some oxtail, dungeness crab, a soft-poached egg, and — of course — cilantro.The mapo tofu. Looks pretty damn hot, huh? Well, actually, for the seasoned taste buds with a penchant for spicy at my table, not so hot. Mostly smoky, lots of cumin, with a low consistent heat. The upsell on this dish was the ground kurobota pork shoulder, sichuan peppercorns, and chili oil. Plus, white rice. My husband loves him some white rice.Pork belly special that evening. It’s pork belly, so naturally, it was good. Not in that oh-pork-belly-is-so-overdone-way, but in this-is-why-pork-belly-is-so-damn-popular-these-days-way (and incidentally, the Chinese people have loved their pork belly for many many years. This is not some fly-by-night popularity contest for them; this is a deep love and lust for all things pork. Other than my barely detectable eyelids, the other part of me that truly rings Chinese is my love for pork.).Finally, the chicken wings. This dish alone makes the trip to Mission Chinese Food worth it (and sadly, while they do deliver, they do not deliver the chicken wings). Buried under a mountain of sichuan red peppers are hot, fiery, fried, salt and pepper chicken wings. Don’t let the mess of sichuan peppers scare you. Sure, they’re hot. Sure, the oil seeps down into the crispy skin of the chicken wings. But if there’s one thing you must know about sichuan peppers, it’s numbing hot. Meaning, they are so damn hot, eventually, your mouth numbs to the fieriness. I could eat these every day. I’d be sweaty and red-faced (sort of like when I run), but I could still do it (both out of desire and will).
So there we have it. I can cross Mission Chinese Food off my bucket list. And the next time you’re in the Mission with a hankering for something spicy, tweet me. I’ll meet you there and I’ll bring the wet naps and heartburn medication.
Bauer’s two cents here.