Mission Chinese – LES, NYC

Wow. Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow.

Review By: Stefanie Parks –

Oh, wow. Get to Mission Chinese now. Wait however long they tell you, and order as much as you can. Can I just end my review right there?

Just kidding.

All we had heard about Mission Chinese (besides the fact that it’s out of this world) is that we’d have to wait three hours to get in… Or maybe not even get in at all. So, we looked online to see what time they opened (5:30pm) and got there exactly then. I had predicted that we’d wait for two hours, but when we got there, they told us it was only a 45 minute wait. This might be due to the fact that it was raining and weather.com was predicting possible tornadoes and 100% chance of rain for the next few hours (100% chance? That’s crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen there be 100% chance of rain).

After 45 minutes (they were very punctual) they called me to say that our table was ready… But it wasn’t even 6:30 and we weren’t hungry yet (remember, we had been planning to wait 2-3 hours?). So, we told them that we weren’t ready and asked us to put us back on the list for another hour. I wonder if anyone in the history of Mission Chinese has ever done such a thing before (the hostess did look at us like we were a little crazy – though she was also really nice about it).

An hour later we were ready to eat. We went back to Mission, had a couple of beers from their free keg (we had read about the free keg, but didn’t believe it until we actually drank from it), and were told that our table was ready… Or as they should have said, our spot at the table was ready.

The first thing you see when you walk into Mission Chinese (besides the garbage can with the keg in it, of course), is the kitchen. The hostess walked us down a long hall with a window view of the kitchen. We saw all of the delicious food being prepared and were pretty much drooling before we even sat down. We walked through a velvet curtain and into a small-ish room that had several individual tables and then one big communal table in the middle. Our seat was smack in the middle of the communal table.

I don’t usually love sitting at communal tables because no matter what, you always feel like you’re interrupting someone’s meal or eaves dropping on their conversation. But not at Mission. Everyone is so excited to be eating there and so eager to talk to anyone that’s sitting next to them about what their eating or what they’re planning to order. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and it was one of my favorite things about my experience at Mission. In fact, even the guy in line in front of me for the bathroom asked me if I had eaten yet and gave me the whole run down about what he had ordered and what he recommended.

From the small dishes menu we got Beijing Vinegar Peanuts with salt, vinegar, smoked garlic, and anise (a flowering plant in native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor is similar to licorice, fennel, and tarragon). We also got Red Braised Pig Tails with root beer, sweet and sour pineapple, and celery leaves and Howard’s Peanut Noodles with pickled mustard greens, ginger, spinach, and peanut sauce.

Frankly, I don’t even know what to say about the food other than it was amazing. The peanuts came out first and were a little intense, but in the best possible way. I’ve never had pig tails before and didn’t know what to expect. They came out and at first we thought they were the wings, but then we took a bite and they tasted like ribs… like pork… so then we knew they were the pig tails. The sauce was very interesting and different, but also in best possible way. And then we tried the peanut noodles. Wow. I hadn’t even wanted to order these at first because there were so many other more interesting items on the menu, but Dave said we had to, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that we did. This was by far my favorite dish of the night and definitely the best peanut noodles that I’ve ever had.

From the large plates menu we got the Kung Pao Pastrami with peanuts, celery, potato and explosive chili and the Chongqing Chicken Wings with explosive chili and crispy beef tripe. The chicken wings came out first and between the fact that we love wings AND we had just read about Mission’s wings on GrubStreet NY‘s list of 9 most exciting wings, we couldn’t wait to try them. The wings didn’t have any sauce on them but just had a ridiculous rub and came on a plate full of chilis. I took one amazing bite, and then another…. and then my mouth was on fire like it had never been before. I must have eaten a chili or something, but I was in pain. Actually, I thought I was going to die for a few minutes there. Dave thought I was out for the count, but somehow after a few minutes of torture, I came back. And just in time for the kung pao pastrami, which was ridiculous.

Every single thing that we got was out of control and even with my near-death experience with the chicken wings, this place has undoubtedly made my list of top 10 NYC restaurants (actually it made the top 5). Even though it doesn’t really feel like you’re eating Chinese food, we had some of the best dishes that we’ve had in NY. And, I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant too (even/especially the communal table). The only thing I don’t like about Mission Chinese? The little ninja that flies across the screen every few seconds on their website (sorry, it’s distracting!!).

And best of all… we have tons of leftovers to eat for dinner tonight. It’s 10:14am and I already can’t wait for Mission Chinese round two.