Mission Cantina

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I’ve said it once, twice, three times a lady, or man, and I’ll say it again. I could eat Mexican food, just about every day. And, yes, Mexican food here in the states varies, where you’ll get authentic Mexican cuisine, to Tex-Mex, and, a chef’s interpretation of Mexican food. Which ever it is, I usually love it all. And, when you can also find Chinese influenced dishes on the menu as well? I’m intrigued, and in. So, I went to Mission Cantina in the Lower East Side. 

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Although the restaurant itself isn’t large, it packs in a lot of personality. Even though the lighting is dimmed, there are electric colored lights and bright decor to make the space more dynamic. Throw in a big screen playing movies (Clueless was the selection on my evening) and an “open kitchen” (closed in, but only by a glass window to watch the magic happen), and we’re having a party. Ok, so, we’ve got Clueless playing and a menu with Smashing Pumpkins on it, I was thrown right back to my childhood. And then I saw a group of 19 year olds sitting across from me and realized they probably have no idea what any of this is. Sad. Anyway, to drink away my sorrows of feeling old, I ordered the 49ER (tequila blanco, lemon, smoked habanero, honey). This drink was amazing. It had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, making it somewhat of a spicy margarita, with a twist. 

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To start, I had their Sunflower Seed Guacamole. I really loved this, especially since I’m a real fan of foods with different texture components. You have the freshness of the diced tomato, creaminess of the avocado, and the crunch from the sunflower seeds. The chips were awesome too, blue corn, thick and crisp, with a nice sprinkling of spice on top.  

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For my entree, I opted to go for the Chinese menu side, and went for the Salt and Pepper Fish Filet Over Rice. I was really pleased with my decision on this one. First off, the portions here are huge, which is pretty awesome, since I’d say it’s near to impossible that you’ll leave feeling hungry. In fact, you could probably pack up half of it for another meal. On top of a large bed of sticky white rice, is a generous portion of fish, lightly battered and fried, liberally seasoned with salt and pepper. The pieces of fish are delicate in flavor, but super delicious. Slight caution with this one though, it’s pretty spicy, which, I loved, but, should be thrown out there. A good cure is to fight spice with spice, so, just take a few extra sips of a 49ER.

The Shorts:
Name: Mission Cantina 
Location: 172 Orchard Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Definitely. And when I do, I’ll switch it up and order some tacos or one of their massive burritos. 
Would I recommend it? For sure. The service is great, the food is delicious, they’re throwing 90’s all over the place, what’s not to like?

 

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Babu Ji

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Now that Winter has actually kicked in, in NYC, you probably crave comfort food. And, if you’re like me, you want comfort food that’s hot and spicy too, because, extra warmth. I love Indian food, which pretty much checks these marks for me, so, I was off to Babu Ji in Alphabet City.

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A mix of modern elegance meets local deli kind of sums up the aesthetic of this contemporary Indian restaurant. You’ll find striking, large print photographs framed on the wall, along with a projecting Indian movie, and, a stuffed peacock on top of a self-serve beverage refrigerator. But once your food starts coming out, you won’t even be paying attention to what’s around you, and only what’s in front of you. Not only are the dishes all visually captivating, they’re insanely delicious. And, the entire staff here was so amazing, attentive, courteous, and, if you’re a crazy food-picture-taker like myself, you’re in luck, because one of our servers asked a few times if I’d like him to provide some additional light from his phone. What a gem! Ok, food, let’s get into it. Get some Naan. It’s warm, soft and pillowy, but still has a nice chew to it. The flavors are delicate, but give the dough a little pizzaz.

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All of the appetizers sounded amazing, so, I started with a couple to share. First was Papadi Chaat (chickpea, cucumber, pomegranate, tamarind, mint and yogurt chutney). They describe it as the motherland’s version of nachos and salsa, a must try. And, they’re 100% right, this dish was unbelievable. First off, it’s stunning to look at, but each ingredient is so fresh and dynamic, and you can really taste all of the flavors individually, while going so wonderfully all together. Texture wise, you really have everything here, you’ve got crunch from the slaw and the chips, creaminess from the chutney, and all of the other elements in between. It was really fantastic, and you must order it.

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Ok, so, before I even start about the second appetizer, I need to take a breath. Ok, breath taken. This was possibly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while, and definitely my favorite thing from my meal here. I had their Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower (Indo-Chinese style cauliflower in a tomato chili sauce, sesame and onion seed, chives). So, they killed it in the immitation department, replicating General Tso’s Chicken from the outside. But, take a bite and this vegan dish made out of cauliflower tastes crazily similar. Everything about this dish was pure perfection, from the sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce, to the airy and crisp breading around the tender and flavorful cauliflower. I wish I could go on forever about this, but, my fingers will get too tired from typing. So, let’s meet up for a plate of Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower and I’ll talk your ear off about it.

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For my main, I ordered Baingan Bartha (Spiced and fire roasted eggplant curry with green peas). Again, presentation on point. And flavor wise, excellent. The eggplant is pureed into a consistency in between a spread and a paste, making it very substantial. There’s a really nice kick of heat, and the freshness of the peas and shaved veggies on top help to cool your mouth a little bit and add a nice textural component.

The Shorts:
Name: Babu Ji
Location: 175 Avenue B, NYC
The Shorts: Would I go back? Let me think about it…YES! Did you not read my obsessive fan-girl review of that cauliflower?
Would I recommend it? 100%. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go. I can’t even think of one complaint. The staff is incredible, the food is outstanding, what else could you ask for?