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Mission Chinese Food


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#1 Orik

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:36 PM

I'm sure you're going to read a lot of hyper-excited reports, as much of the current clientele seems to come from all kinds of mailing lists... people who have probably only eaten Jewish-American-Chinese out on Long Island. In reality this is a pretty good Sichuan-ish restaurant with a couple of twists, but nothing you're going to stand in line for and not as good as the better Sichuanese in town... like a not-revolting version of Xi'an, I guess, and only slightly more expensive.

We took two "small dishes" and two "large dishes". I was guessing this description means they'll "authentically" arrive when they're ready and indeed, just a couple of minutes after placing our order, we received three dishes:

- Lamb head dumplings - these were very nice - powerfully lamb flavored, with the usual chili-sichuan peppercorn-peanut-vinegar combo you get in some Sichaun places and in Xi'an Famous Foods - although this was better and less one dimensional than at Xi'an. A rather large small dish (8 large dumplings?) for $8

- Tea smoked eel - a take on tea smoked duck - served in a rice noodle roll with some trotter, radishes, celery and a sauce I couldn't place. Delicious, also rather substantial, $9

- Wild pepper leaves - from the menu description (wild pepper leaves, pressed tofu, pumpkin, salted chili broth) I was imagining mostly greens, but this really was a murky and flat flavored soup, with some greens (tasty), undercooked pumpking (not atypical of Sichuanese, but not good), and thin slices of not very good pressed tofu. This is the dish of my nightmares when I make vegetables - what I imagine serious non-gluten vegans must be eating every day. $11

Our other main course, sorry, large dish, didn't arrive. We waited a bit, asked about it, asked again, and again... if finally came - Kung Pao Pastrami - cubes of extremely lean and extremely salty (even saltier than the mixed preserved meats preparation at Grand Sichuan) pastrami with very good Kung Pao sauce (chilin, sichuan peppercorn, red pepper, celery, peanuts, supposedly potato but I didn't see any). $11 as well.

They have a couple of beers, and a few cocktails. Judging by my cocktail (supposedly grapefruit+yuzu+shochu+sparkling wine, but really mostly ice water with a bit of yuzu, left it 90% untouched) and what ones on nearby tables looked like, I'd stick with beer.

The space is cramped, noisy (I think they have to play loud music to mask the incredible noise from the two wall AC units and the many fans), and overall unappealing - like they tried to mimic a cheesy Chinese decor but were too successful. Ed Levine and co went in, figured they won't be abled to stand it, and left, all the better for the three girls from Roslyn who were trying to figure out if pastrami is chicken, beef, or pork (pork, said the waitress... no, wait... beef). It might be better to sit by one of the bar tables.
sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#2 oakapple

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:13 AM

How long did you wait?
Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#3 Orik

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 02:26 AM

We went early (6pm ish) and there was no wait. By 7pm there was probably a 30 minute wait.
sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#4 Lex

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 04:09 AM

In reality this is a pretty good Sichuan-ish restaurant with a couple of twists, but nothing you're going to stand in line for and not as good as the better Sichuanese in town... like a not-revolting version of Xi'an, I guess, and only slightly more expensive.

Thanks for the report. It seems better than I had expected - a pleasant surprise. Based on all the pre-opening hype you'd think there weren't 12 or so first rate Sichuan restaurants already in NYC. I guess they need to hire publicists.

Just for fun I read the Yelp reviews of Mission Chinese - they averaged out to 4 stars out of 5. Who are these people awarding the stars? I decided to find out. On Yelp if you click the reviewer's name you get a list of all their reviews. So far, so typical. But there's a very cool feature. You can click and pop up a list of the categories their reviews fall into - Italian, French, ... and yes, Chinese. Of the 14 people awarding 4 or 5 stars only one had ever reviewed a Sichuan restaurant before. A lot of them had never even reviewed a single Chinese restaurant.

Bottom line - they don't know the cuisine. Assuming that MC is pretty good they're bound to think it's uniquely good. They have no context in which to place it.

BTW, that lack of knowledge isn't limited to the people who loved the place. The negative reviews displayed plenty of ignorance -

there were great ideas on the menu but the spice levels were a bit aggressive. many dishes led to mouth tingling borderline numbness without compensating with flavor.

overall, food did not live up to the immense hype. i appreciate the creativity but I am not dying to dine here again

1) Sichuan dishes sometimes have Sichuan peppercorns in them. He didn't know that.

2) He's mistaking novelty for creativity (he never had Sichuan food before)
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
"But this is blatant ultracrepidarianism on my part." - Taion

I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.

"once the penis came out, there was discussions as to why we didn't order the testicles" - Daniel describing a meal in China

#5 Lex

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 04:27 AM

In my last post I mentioned that I thought there were around 12 good to very good Sichuan restaurants in NYC. It's time to name names.

I prefer not to try to rank them against each other. Declaring a "best" restaurant in New York is a doomed effort. Some places excel at certain dishes, others excel at other dishes.

People often declare a place "the best" because they do a great job on their 5 favorite dishes. Which is great if you happen to like those 5. Of course, you might prefer 5 other dishes and find that another place makes superior versions. Which is "best?" It depends on what you like. I'm a big believer in the Good Kitchen concept. It means that there are skilled people preparing the food and the overall quality level is high.

To keep things simple I'm just going to use two groups - Very Good and Good. The following list is in ALPHABETICAL order.

Very Good:
Famous Sichuan
Grand Sichuan House (Bay Ridge)
Hot Kitchen
Lan Sheng
Little Pepper (College Point)
Spicy & Tasty (Flushing)
Szechuan Gourmet (Manhattan branch - the Flushing outpost is so-so)

Good:
Grand Sichuan International (5 NYC locations)*
Great Sichuan in Chelsea (based on a limited sample)
Legend (limited selection of Sichuan dishes, some are great, some middling)

* I've had some terrific meals at a number of GSI locations and then returned and had average meals. Then returned again and had another terrific meal. You roll the dice - they have a problem with consistency. I suspect they have a lot staff turnover in their kitchens.


Only one Yelp reviewer of Mission Chinese ever ate at any of these places.
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
"But this is blatant ultracrepidarianism on my part." - Taion

I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.

"once the penis came out, there was discussions as to why we didn't order the testicles" - Daniel describing a meal in China

#6 joethefoodie

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 12:43 PM

I've had a very good meal or two at MCF. and like that just as in SF, 75ยข of every entree cost will be donated to one of NYC's programs to help feed the poor.

I also like that they will deliver to the neighborhood, thereby increasing by an untold percentage the delivery options for good Chinese food.

#7 oakapple

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 12:59 PM

Just for fun I read the Yelp reviews of Mission Chinese . . . .

Bottom line - they don't know the cuisine.

I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.
Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#8 joethefoodie

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:27 PM

I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.

Wouldn't it be great if Fuchsia Dunlop was reviewing Sichuan restaurants here, and maybe Harold McGee to review WD-50?




#9 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:47 PM


I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.

Wouldn't it be great if Fuchsia Dunlop was reviewing Sichuan restaurants here, and maybe Harold McGee to review WD-50?

The funny thing is she has written about restaurants here for the FT, but never the sichuan places.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#10 joethefoodie

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:51 PM



I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.

Wouldn't it be great if Fuchsia Dunlop was reviewing Sichuan restaurants here, and maybe Harold McGee to review WD-50?

The funny thing is she has written about restaurants here for the FT, but never the sichuan places.

I have to expand my reading horizons.




#11 oakapple

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 01:55 PM

As Sneakeater frequently reminds us, the mainstream media reviewers are almost never experts in this cuisine. They tend to review these places only after the actual experts have blessed them. Frank Bruni reviewed Spicy & Tasty and Szechuan Gourmet. But how many of the others on Lex's list do you think he'd been to?

Mission Chinese, due to its high profile, undoubtedly WILL get reviewed by most of the big players; but that is not the norm.
Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal

#12 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 02:10 PM




I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.

Wouldn't it be great if Fuchsia Dunlop was reviewing Sichuan restaurants here, and maybe Harold McGee to review WD-50?

The funny thing is she has written about restaurants here for the FT, but never the sichuan places.

I have to expand my reading horizons.

http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/gastronomic-tour-of-china/

She'll even be your tour guide in China if you want.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#13 joethefoodie

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:06 PM





I am not sure that problem is unique to this restaurant. There are not a lot of well-informed Yelp reviewers, regardless of cuisine.

Having said that, how many real experts are there (who write reviews)? Not many, would be my guess.

Wouldn't it be great if Fuchsia Dunlop was reviewing Sichuan restaurants here, and maybe Harold McGee to review WD-50?

The funny thing is she has written about restaurants here for the FT, but never the sichuan places.

I have to expand my reading horizons.

http://www.fuchsiadu...-tour-of-china/

She'll even be your tour guide in China if you want.

As an aside, MCFNY's Danny Bowien took a tour of Sichuan province recently, as reported here.
Might've helped his knowledge some.




#14 Nathan

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:19 PM

As Sneakeater frequently reminds us, the mainstream media reviewers are almost never experts in this cuisine. They tend to review these places only after the actual experts have blessed them. Frank Bruni reviewed Spicy & Tasty and Szechuan Gourmet. But how many of the others on Lex's list do you think he'd been to?

Mission Chinese, due to its high profile, undoubtedly WILL get reviewed by most of the big players; but that is not the norm.



I think he'd definitely been to the Grand Sichuans...that's pretty much a NY standard if you're into food at all. What professional reviewers generally do (as opposed to Yelpers) when reviewing a cuisine they're unfamiliar with is to read a cookbook or two (the old Dennis Getto strategy) or, these days, use google. obviously that's not the same thing as real expertise but it avoids being surprised by ma la etc...
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My opinions are obviously my personal opinions. Not yours. Not universal.


#15 Nathan

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 03:21 PM

I recently read a Yelp review of a Thai place in Austin where the comment included: "This place is so inauthentic....I even had to ask for chopsticks!" They are fun to read.
Blatantly Obvious Disclaimer:

My opinions are obviously my personal opinions. Not yours. Not universal.