Mission Chinese is one of our most beloved places in the city, so we were delighted when we were able to make a last-minute reservation for 7:00 on a Saturday night. Our original plan was to check out Gitano, the Mexican pop-up in SoHo that has hosted many celebrity-spotting. I made the reservations before the palm-filled outdoor space opened, but after one of my team mentioned that they had been closed temporarily by the health department, it made sense to see if any reviews had been posted. After a quick search, I found only negative comments about the food and service, plus it didn’t seem the exterior atmosphere was going to be very comfortable with the Summer heat. We’ll probably try it for drinks at some point. So long Gitano; hello Mission!
We arrived a bit early and headed to the bar for a apertif while we waited for our friends to arrive. I think this may be the first time we tried their cocktails, as we tend to just go for a bottle of Reisling to stand up to the intense heat of the food. This time we went for both since there were four of us. The drinks were delicious and fun; my personal favorite was the Phil Kallins – gin, coconut milk, kaffir lime, tianjin chili, ginger, lemongrass, and sesame oil. It had a savory quality with a slightly sweet creaminess. The chili-sesame oil really made it. Other standouts were the electric blue MSG Margarita (tequila, bitter melon, blue curacao, aloe salt, and citrus) and the General Tso’s Whiskey Sour (rye, pineapple, roasted peanut + sesame, ginger, chili, and umami bitters). I love how they sprinkle just a bit of seasoning on the top ice cube versus the usual rim.
The Quick Mission Dinner is our go-to, but we decided to continue on our a la carte spree. One of our companions is gluten-free and vegan, and the menu was very accommodating for her. Wood Fired Celery, Effervescent Sichuan Water Pickles, Smoked Mushroom “Jerky” Fried Rice, and Vegan Mapo Tofu provided the base, and then the other three of us supplemented with Chongqing Chicken Wings w/XXX Spices and Kung Pao Pastrami. I don’t think it is possible for my husband to go to Mission without ordering the chicken wings, but I don’t discourage. The pickles, which are served with chunks of ice – I know, weird, right? – are spicy and exquisite. A lot of the dishes, including the wings and pickles, contain the spicy, numbing Sichuan peppers – you love and curse them in the same bite. The lobster fried rice is still my number one pick in the rice section, but the mushroom one is a worthy second. We’ve never had a dish at Mission that was anything less than extraordinary, and I’m so glad our friends were just as mesmerized.