Total Bill: $98.00 for two
On Orchard Street, between Stanton and Rivington in the Lower East Side, you’ll see a crowd overflowing onto the sidewalk from a set of sunken steps. These folks are waiting, most likely for hours mind you, for Mission Chinese Food.
Hype aside, the food is legitimate and the atmosphere underground-ishly hip. Anny and I waited two hours, grabbing a drink a the nearby intoeca in the meantime, and still I found the wait worthwhile. Don’t feel like walking down the block? These guys set up a keg so you can tap beer on the house to kill time.
But the food. Chinese food is undoubtedly its mission, and they accomplish it head on, flavors intense, without any frivolity. No unnecessary supplements, no fancy plating. There’s something very authentically Chinese about the dishes, visually raw and hastily prepared. But then there is also something extra from what you find in Chinatown — be prepared for very aggressive flavors.
Take the chilled buckwheat noodles. Not my favorite of the night, but unique still. It brings traditionally marinated Korean daikon into the mix, adding spice and crunch to the plump noodles.
Then the very Japanese-inspired egg custard cup. Smooth as butter, hit with tinges of salty roe. This was our lightest entree of the night, and still it was booming with flavor.
But the epitome of our orders was the thrice cooked bacon dish with pickled vegetables. Salty and spicy, they aren’t shy about leaving thick lines of fat on their chucks of bacon. It’s their must-order dish and a momentary indiscretion to your health you must allow.
We also shared the cod fried rice, a lovely complement to the rest of the meal. Chucks of cod embedded in the creamy rice gave off hits of saltiness, but overall a much more neutral dish. Last was the sizzling cumin-packed rack of lamb, with a thick coating of herbs packed so tightly it almost looked too dry to eat. But bite in and the lamb is super tender with a punch unlike any other lamb I’ve ever had.
With all that (Anny brought us our own riesling), we boxed up enough to last two more meals, costing us less than fifty bucks a head.