Mission (Chinese Food) Accomplished

Man oh man do I love the satisfaction that comes with crossing off things on my to-do lists. Even better still when that satisfying feeling of completion comes along with the happy, stuffed high of a great, big delicious meal.

Such was the case earlier this week when a friend and I finally, after talking about it over and over and meaning to go for the past year or so, went to Mission Chinese Food, the tiny, much-raved about Americanized Chinese food joint made famous in San Fran and now also located in the Lower East Side.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm and hungry folks line up outside before the door’s even unlocked and neon sign turned on just to claim one of the few spots in the no-reservations restaurant. Right there in that line, was us, ready to scarf down our hipster Chinese grub version of an early bird special. Even though I hate early dinners, especially when the sun’s still out, I’d gladly do it again because the food totally, if you ask me, lived up to the hype.

Chili margarita

Chili margarita

To celebrate our success at A.) getting our acts together and finally making it to the restaurant and B.) actually getting seated right away, we ordered ourselves some drinks. The chili margaritas, with their orangey pink color, citrusy bite and toasted chili kick were the perfect way to start things off.

Mapo ramen

Mapo ramen

Food at Mission Chinese comes out as the kitchen finishes it and for us, first out was the mapo ramen, a generous bowl of fatty pork broth, seaweed, coddledegg, mapo tofu and ramen noodles. Like many of the dishes here, this one wasn’t shy about being packed with bright bold flavors and a fiery kick that had me breaking out in full on nose sweats. (You know, when the bridge of your nose beads up with spicy food induced sweat. Not exactly my best look.)

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Cheese, cheese and more cheese

I used to imagine that being allergic to shellfish would be pretty damn awful because it would mean you’d never hold a soft, warm lobster roll in your hands or taste the velvety sweetness of lobster bisque on your tongue, but recently, because of a friend who is lactose intolerant and gets horrible gas when he eats cheese, I have to change my answer. Not being able to eat cheese would be the worst thing EVER.

Which is probably why my lactose intolerant friend does what I would do in the same situation, and that is completely disregard his body’s inability to deal with dairy (and his friends’ inability to deal with his flatulence) and eat it anyway. If your friends love you, they’ll love you even when you’re gassy, I suppose.

All of this crossed my mind last week when a friend (of the lactose tolerant variety) and I ate at  Murray’s Cheese Bar, the restaurant/bar spinoff of perhaps my favorite store in all of Manhattan, Murray’s Cheese Shop. Murray’s, which I’ve proclaimed my love for before, is basically a cheese wonderland. They have every color, smell, texture and type of  cheese you could ever want and the new Cheese Bar, just a couple of doors down, showcases a lot of those cheeses in different forms including cheese plates, dips, spreads, sandwiches, desserts and more.

Ellsworth Creamery Buffalo Cheese Curds… fried cheese with more cheese. YES.

My friend and I started with the fried Ellsworth Creamery buffalo cheese curds, quirky, squeaky chunks of solid, soured milk that go into the cheese making process.  These looked like tater tots or boneless chicken wings in their bright reddish orange coats of tangy, hot buffalo sauce and to complete the look, they came with celery sticks and a thick, chunky Black River blue cheese dip. The way I see it, you just really can’t go wrong with cheese-on-cheese action.

Bibb Lettuce Salad: healthy without having to sacrifice being delicious

In a half-hearted attempt to be healthy, my friend suggested the bibb lettuce salad from the greenmarket portion of the menu. If all salads included juicy nectarines, fat, crunchy marcona almonds, fennel, Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese  and perfectly crisp pieces of prosciutto, everyone would eat more salads and I’m pretty sure the world would be a better, happier place because of it.

Rarebit cheddar burger

Rarebit cheddar burger and pour-your-own beer-cheese sauce

To round out the savory part of our meal, we also split the rarebit cheddar burger, an openfaced, fat hunk of Ottomanelli meat topped with a thick, dark sauce made of  Prairie Breeze cheddar and Left Hand Milk Stout (beer AND cheese? GENIUS.) which came in a little gravy boat of sorts so that it could be poured on to your heart’s content. (My heart was well beyond content and I’d be lying if I said the thought of pouring the sauce directly down my throat hadn’t crossed my mind.)

Coeur de Creme: a creamy sweet, cheesey ending

Finally, for something sweet, we shared the coeur de creme, made with Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery creme fraiche Ben’s cream cheese, and at the very bottom, a jammy, tart, red currant curd.  The dessert had the consistency of a thick, whipped cream cheese (which I prefer over the regular kind) and the creamy, sweetness of cheesecake, sans the crust. The red currant at the bottom of the glass was just enough to give a very subtle, fruity swirl.

All in all, a great cheese themed dinner in a fun, cute new restaurant (also good for grabbing a drink, by the way). But the best part? Being able to enjoy it without the unfortunate gastric consequences of stinking up anyone’s air.