79 Clinton St
(between Rivington St & Delancey St)
New York, NY 10002
I’m not completely against non-traditional Chinese food. I love Baohaus, especially their fried chicken bao and fried fish coffin bao, which are both not traditional Chinese dishes. I also love Mission Chinese, a hip little modern Chinese place that even has a kale salad. That has got to be the least Chinese thing ever. But I still love it. ‘Cause they do it right. It’s hip in the right ways. They have crispy pig ears (totally Chinese) and use Old Bay seasoning (totally not Chinese). Danny Bowien experiments with all kinds of Eastern and Western flavors and brings them together in exciting, unpretentious ways.
Yunnan Kitchen, on the other hand, pretends to be traditional but also wants to be hip and pretentious. The space is occupied by mostly non-Asians (no offense) and the menu encourages sharing “delicious small plates.” Nuh uh. Chinese people don’t share small plates. We share big plates. Pet peeve of mine. Pictured above is the Cold Noodles ($12) with ground pork, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and peanuts. This is a pretty classic dish – spicy, sweet, and nutty – but $12 is ridiculous for a tiny bowl of limp noodles. Check out Xi’an for some serious noodle damage.
We also shared the Beef Tartare ($13) with chili oil, green cabbage, and rice cracker. I liked the rice cracker and green cabbage combo but also felt like the portions were way too small for a $13 dish. The beef was lightly flavored. Nothing too memorable.
These Stir Fried Mushrooms ($11) with sawtooth herb, ham, and peppers was probably my favorite dish from the night. There were a number of different kinds of mushrooms sautéed with a smoked ham and spicy green peppers (green long horns?). My only suggestion to Yunnan Kitchen is to serve it on a sizzling cast iron plate. It smells so good, it deserves to come out crackling. Continue reading Yunnan Kitchen: decently tasty but also pretentious
154 Orchard St
(between Stanton St & Rivington St)
New York, NY 10002
Wow. This is some legit modern Chinese food. I hate pan-Asian and in general, hate it when people try to mess with authentic Chinese cuisine. American Chinese food is only good when Panda Express makes it because they at least don’t pretend to be something they’re not. I would call Mission Chinese modern Sichuan cuisine. The dishes certainly diverge from the traditional but it does so in the best way possible: keeping the essence of the traditional while adding something new to make the dish bigger, better, faster, stronger. This is probably the goal of pan-Asian but pan-Asian tends to just sweeten everything too much, add too much grease, and cater to people who don’t know what the original is like. Mission Chinese seems to cater to people who know what Sichuan food actually is and want to push the boundaries further. It’s like an inside joke that you would only understand if you’re already well-versed in Sichuan food.
I started the meal with an Oolong Hai ($10), which was simply oolong tea, lemon, and soju. It was a deliciously simple cocktail that was definitely made with some well-brewed oolong tea. It was probably made extra strong to compensate for the inevitable watering-down-of-tea from the ice because the tea tasted strong and penetrated the soju from beginning to end of drink. It was only very slightly sweet, which tasted more like the floral accents from the tea rather than from any sugar or honey, though I’m sure they had to add something.
We ordered a variety of cold appetizers: Beer Brined Sichuan Pickles (napa cabbage, carrot, chili oil, sichuan pepper) , Beijing Vinegar Peanuts (smoked garlic, anise, rock sugar), and Smashed Cucumbers (salted chili, sesame paste, garlic) ($4 each). $4 is quite expensive for the tiny portions of dishes that, in my opinion, could be/should be complimentary (like Korean banchan). They were not incredibly special but the fact that they even had Sichuan Pickles and Beijing Vinegar Peanuts made me excited. I had not had them since I was in China. Truth be told, they weren’t authentic and these appetizers definitely lacked in quality. I quickly forgot about them once the hot dishes came. Continue reading Mission Chinese – amazing Modern Chinese cuisine