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Mission Cantina Report


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Mission Cantina Report

sgordon | | Nov 20, 2013 05:37 PM

Was meeting a couple of friends for an early dinner and, all being fans of Mission Chinese, figured we'd check out the new joint if it wasn't mobbed. We got there as they opened and sat right down and started plowing through some food.

Overall, not bad, though surprisingly subdued in terms of heat, given the chef's previous work.

We started with the two ceviches, both very straightforward, but both very good. Can't really say one was better than the other, though the scallop & beef heart was probably the winner, a little more complex with the subtle beefiness.

Soft-scrambled eggs with uni were good, the uni super sweet and creamy. Again, fairly straightforward but well prepared.

The fresh queso oaxaca was decent, if nothing I'd write home about. It was described as hickory-smoked on the menu, but I didn't detect any smokiness. Nice roasted poblano with it, though, for a little spin in mozzarella & roasted peppers. Tasty enough, but I doubt I'd order it again.

On to some tacos, then. The tortillas themselves are fantastic, not just window dressing or a delivery vehicle for the toppings, but assertively flavored on their own. The carnitas were among my favorites, three textures of pork, really really porky flavor - so many pork dishes taste like whatever sauce they're in, but here the swine was the star. Lamb was very good, as were the mushrooms. Pumpkin was great, and had a nice subtle heat to it.

The lamb ribs entree, though, was a bit of a dud for me. It's a huge portion for the price, no complaints there. The menu said it was in a coffee & hibiscus sauce but I'll be damned if I could taste either. Cumin was the predominant flavor, bringing to mind a not-spicy take on the cumin lamb from MiCh. The texture was a bit underwhelming as well. It felt as though it had been cooked sous vide, which is fine, but finish it on the grill or plancha for chrissakes.

Now, I loooooove lamb fat. It is honestly one of my favorite things. When I make chops at home I don't french them, but grill the edges and get the fat rendered and crispy and delicious. These ribs, the fat was just kind of flabby and blah. A few minutes on some direct heat would have carmelized them, given some of that Maillard reaction we crave, and probably brought out the coffee notes more to boot. Unfortunately, these were really underwhelming texturally, leaving me wishing we'd gone for the chicken instead.

There are the makings of a good dish there - scale back the cumin, finish the dish with some fire to render the fat and give a little char, it'd be a massive improvement, and a great dish I think. The prunes and onions with it were great (though I did hit a pit in one prune) - the two salsas it was served with it (red and green) could have used more spice, though. Or maybe they should leave a bottle of El Yucateca on each table for DIY heat.

For drinks, the Micheladas were good but the bacon rim was a little kitschy/dated (c'mon, bacon? over it.) and honestly regular salt would have been preferable, as it felt a little muted without it and the bacon didn't bring the same salinity. A soju cocktail with yuzu was refreshing and tasty.

Service was great, friendly, attentive but not obtrusive. Perfect, really.

All in all a good meal, lamb ribs aside, and reasonably priced. Not as adventurous as some things at Empellon, but good. That said, there were no "holy shit I have to get all my friends to try this" dishes as there were at MiCh. After my first meal there, I couldn't wait to go back and bring more friends. With MiCa, my enthusiasm - much like some of the flavors - is a bit more subdued. It's kind of a good neighborhood joint, and I'm glad to have it here.

All that said, I feel a little odd writing them up when they've only been open a day. I'll be back - reports on the chicken are really good, and I'm looking forward to trying it. And like any restaurant, there'll be quirks at first as they refine their game. They're off to a good start, for sure.

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