Those in New York: run, do not walk, to Mission Chinese Food at 154 Orchard St in the Lower East Side. It’s been documented at length by all and sundry and been touted as the greatest thing to happen to Chinese food since wok first met fire, and that may just be true.
So what’s the deal? It’s the New York outpost of a San Francisco pop-up style joint, the child of chef Danny Bowien, who before Mission had never cooked Chinese food (indeed, none of the cooks in the place were Chinese), but went travelling in China, learning how shit’s done right, and then came back and fused that knowledge and experience into some crazy-good, mind-bending, mouthwatering dishes. The New York branch has been open a few months now and apparently offers a refined tweaking of the original SF experience.
Some of what’s on offer seems traditional, some not, but everything comes out like it’s been imbued with magic tasty awesomeness that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of flavor, heat, and spice.
I’ll only comment upon what my friend and I shared. We ordered the salt cod fried rice, the Chongqing chicken wings (“explosive chili and crispy beef tripe”), the thrice-cooked pork, and the mapo tofu, all things that can be had, more or less, at any worthwhile Sichuanese place.
The rice was subtle but very very tasty. The bits of salt cod and slow-cooked mackerel provided a nice balance to the sweet Chinese sausage, and the entire dish was a good foil to the spicy onslaught which followed.
The wings – holy shit. Smothered in a seasoning powder containing lots of Sichuan peppercorn for sure, as well as what tasted like some sugar and MSG. Umami-mouth tingling explosion. My lips felt like they were fizzing like a glass of warm soda (The seasoning is so fizzing good that I scooped what was left on the plate and ate it straight). Also, the crispy fried dry chiles they come with are AWESOME, like chips but way way better.
The bacon – Holy shit part two. Never have I tasted anything more porky and smoky than the thick cut bacon they use. The sauce was divine, thick, spicy, smoky, and tingly, and the included sliced rice cakes did a good job absorbing it. My friend and I were rationing it out to have bites throughout the meal.
Mapo tofu – wow, just over the top. If I had this plus a bowl of plain rice, and nothing else, I’d be very happy. With everything else, it was probably overkill. Far more meaty and rich than any mapo I’ve had (of course, due to the generous use of pork shoulder that they advertised) – this wasn’t the incendiary, numbing dish I expected, but almost like a super heavy Chinese variant on chili. Really ridiculous (no picture of this one, I was too defeated at that point to take pictures)
I’ll conclude with the atmosphere – wild. The entrance is in a basement, only easily detected by the queue outside. The shopfront looks like the scummiest of shitty takeout windows, only with lots of people milling about and…a keg, providing free beer to people with their names down for a table. Once your name is called (making you feel like a golden-ticket holder) you’re escorted through a narrow corridor, past the glassed-in kitchen, past shelves of ingredients, plates, etc, into what looks like an indoor courtyard or back garden. Lit up by a huge red dragon, the tables are tight in, it’s raucous, and it’s casual. The restaurant equivalent of a punk concert, or a proper dive bar with table service
Every single thing about Mission Chinese Food is over the top in the best possible way. Go there ASAP.
High def video on NBC’s site – VERY worth it (or watch the spectactor footage below:)
WOW. Not the most high-profile of gymnastic events, but “Flying Dutchman” Epke Zonderland NAILED his high bar performance last night amid stiff competition from his fellow gymnasts. His moves were sublimely fluid and seamless, lighter than air on the twists and releases, and those three catch-and-release dealies were jaw-dropping. It also carried a difficulty of 7.9, the highest of ANY Olympic gymnast in any event. Maybe not quite as flawlessly brilliant as McKayla Maroney’s perfect vault, it was still, in the words of NBC commentators, “absolutely sick!” and it got him a ludicrously high score of 16.533 and the Netherlands’ first gymnastics gold in 84 years. Bravo Epke, and congratulations Holland!
The day has come, friends and readers: WBH and its author have avoided it for years, but we’re now on Twitter, as you can now see over on the right side over there ——————>
Follow along for links and thoughts that won’t always make it to this site, but are still worthwhile.
Also, if you’re not following him already, Samuel L Jackson’s Twitter has focused almost solely on the Olympics since they began, with tweets re: events as NBC shows them. It’s a masterpiece, the product of a “magnificent and wonderful mind,” as a friend put it. Here are some of the choicest examples:
“PHELPS WALKS em’ DOWN!!! Came & got that ASS! OLYMPIC RULER!! Last race Maggie!! MOSTMUFFAQUATICPFUQQAH of ALL TIME! GOLD!!! Go USA!” [personal favorite]
“Like I said before, those BRITS are some PEDALIN’, RECORD BREAKIN’, MUTHACYCLINPHUCCAS!! Congrats UK!”
“There’s Really some shit called a Splashometer??!! Really?!”
“Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol is Off da Chain! The glasses, da Gats…no Recoil! Steady hands & nobody’s holdin’ their shit SIDEWAYS!”
“Soni Wrecks Breaststroke WR in 200!! A DEUCEMOUGHFOUGHKINPEAT!! Mo GOLD Mo GOLD Mo GOLD! !! Go USA!!”
“Did that Russian just do the ” whoa Gurl Whut wuz in That Drank, dat Shit wuz Skrong” Vault landing?!”
We Ball Harder has an unwritten rule to not talk about sports, or indeed anything that doesn’t potentially add value to your life. However, our slogan is “Telling You What’s Good,” and unwritten rules are certainly there to be broken, and since it’s the Olympics, here’s what’s not just good, but too good not to discuss: McKayla Maroney and her mastery of the vault.
Yes, by now everyone has seen her unfortunate fall after her second vault last night, which resulted in a silver medal in the individual vault competition. If you paid attention though, you’ll notice that her first vault was so good that despite her fall on the second she STILL led the pack until the very last gymnast, neither of whose jumps were nearly as good as McKayla’s first. Also amazing is that last night was her first serious mistake ever in a competition. And unlike some of other gymnasts in these games, she accepted her mistake and her Silver stoically and resolutely. Respect.
But let’s go back to 31 July, to the celebrated gold medal performance by the Fierce Five, as some have taken to calling the US women’s gymnastics team. Every one of the young ladies performed brilliantly, but far and away the best single performance of that event was McKayla’s vault, pictured above, which arguably cemented the US’s lead. Consisting of a notably difficult move called the Amanar, it carried a difficulty score of 6.5, many tenths of a point higher than most routines. McKayla launched herself into the air like a rocket, reaching an unprecedented height while performing 2.5 turns and a somersault, all while keeping herself dead straight as no other gymnast did. Not to mention the flawless landing. In the end she received an execution score of 9.733, the highest score given to any gymnast, for a whopping total score of 16.266 out of a maximum 16.5. Where were the errors? Nobody is sure, neither commentators nor fans after watching slow replays again and again. Even the judges appeared to be in awe. I’m convinced it was perfect. See for yourself – I challenge you to watch only once:
and super slow-motion HD:
Despite the amazing achievements of numerous athletes at the London Olympics, whether it be Missy Franklin’s staggering gold medal-filled Olympic debut, Usain Bolt smoking the competition yet again, or the sheer awesomeness of Oscar Pistorius, McKayla Maroney’s vault on July 31 stands out for its artistry, its grace, its athleticism, and its sheer perfection. She may have a silver on her own, but her stunning performance was the finest moment in the sea of fine moments that led to the Fierce Five gold. She is unequivocally the best in the world, the Hardest Vaulter and Hardest Baller in the field. Bravo!
Updated to add this bonus:
The lads over at Top Gear, the greatest TV show on the planet, have rather coincidentally provided a photo gallery of just the sort of cars you can see on a typical afternoon in West-Central London. You’ll remember I said something about this yesterday, and here’s visual proof of what I was talking about. Click here to see the full gallery, but here are a few of my favorites:
Oddly omitted: the sublime Maserati Granturismo, fairly common in SW3, SW1, SW7, W8, and W1
Gotta catch em all!
I’ve said Georgia is the place for wine. The oldest evidence for wine-making has been found in Georgia, dating back to 8000 years ago, and wine has been in steady production there since then. Even their indigenous word for wine, ghvino, is thought to have influenced Indo-European languages – vinum (Latin), oinos (Greek), and, of course, vino (Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc). As of 6000 years ago, the people now called Georgians essentially created the method of winemaking that remains in use today. For those Georgians who make wine at home, they follow roughly the same procedure. Almost all commercial wine, however, has begun to be made using Western European methods, in an effort to appeal to a global palate. Appealing they are, some even excellent. Pheasant’s Tears has stuck to the ways of their distant ancestors, and their wines are nothing short of amazing.
Hammacher Schlemmer may be cheesy as all hell and otherwise never get a mention on WBH but LOOK AT THIS:
Yes, it’s basically the Tron motorcycle, and it is in fact a real motorbike that you can ride and buy for, gasp, $55,000. It may be insane to spend that on a bike, but really only one word can describe it: SIIIIIIICK!
(click to see a video)
No, not where Outkast is from. The country, in the Caucasus. The Republic of Georgia, Sakartvelo. One of the most lovely places I’ve ever been, where at almost every head turn something gorgeous and unexpected pops into view, where the people shatter your notions of hospitality with their unending kindness and warmth, and where the food and wine are so good that “moderation” ceases to be in your vocabulary. Here are some photos for the time being:
I’ve already briefly addressed it, but Little Boots’s new album, Headphones, is getting the finishing touches for release! By now a few songs have been released and a couple videos have been made:
Little Boots aka Victoria Hesketh is immensely talented, and by far the best of the crop of recent electronically-influenced pop singer-songwriters (such as La Roux, Lady Gaga, Adele, etc). If her upcoming album is as good as her debut, she’ll be a serious contender for a Great Ballers of Music honor. She has a fantastic voice,her songs are intelligent, immensely catchy, and usually quite danceable. If anything the new album seems even more dancefloor oriented. Favorites from the previous, debut album, Hands after the jump
What dreams are made of.
Ladies and gentlemen, the single best bar I have ever been to, and the standard against which all further mixology is to be judged: Little Branch in the West Village in Manhattan.
I just saw this and am in awe. Madeon, a 17 year old digital DJ on Youtube, is now officially God of Sampling Brilliance. He calls it a mash-up, I say that’s an injustice. This is rather THIRTY NINE songs with random snatches of each thrown in at one second and taken out at another, all creating a whole new and truly epic bouncy electro pop track. Like Girl Talk, if Girl Talk didn’t suck. Kudos to Madeon!
It also seems he’s done a pretty good remix of Yelle: