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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Quality Italian

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Midtown West. It’s not an area you’ll find me in often, but, I’ve gotta say, it’s a lot less scary than I remember it (and scary as in, loads of tourists lost in the streets and plenty of suits hustling around). Either way, retreating to an amazing restaurant always wipes away any fear of getting trapped behind a group on people rolling 4+ deep on the sidewalk when you’re in a hurry. So, I got to decompress at Quality Italian.

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The space itself gives a mixed feel of casual elegance, meets power lunch scene, with a touch of modern industrial aesthetic (the light fixtures are incredible). The service here is completely on-point and professional, so you really don’t need to worry about a thing (except what to order, because everything looks fantastic). A bowl of fresh bread is dropped off at the table, and I don’t care if you’re watching your carb intake or not, you have to try a piece. It’s warm, soft and buttery and topped with coarse grains of salt. It’s amazing, eat it.

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To start, I ordered a cocktail. I didn’t look at the menu, instead our server asked what type of spirits I usually like, and he had me at “tequila” and “spicy”. I looked back at the menu and couldn’t find the cocktail, but I was pretty sure he described it as a Tricolore Margarita.

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It’s brought out with just the huge, square, tri-color (hence, the name) ice cube, each color representing a different flavor element. The margarita gets poured on top, and, magic. As the ice starts to melt, the flavors all meld into the drink, giving you that sweet meets spicy wrapped up in delicious.

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For a starter, I had the Tuna “Panzanella” (Charred Shishitos, Tomato, Garlic Croutons). This was so delicious, I could have had a whole plate of it for dinner. The tuna is so flavorful, fresh and tender, and all of the ingredients compliment it so well. I especially really loved pairing the garlic croutons with the tuna, of course, the panzanella part of the dish. The croutons soak up all of the juices and sauce, turning the pieces into little mushy, bready, flavor bombs. Very technical term. 

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Then, for my entree, I ordered Grilled Branzino (Pesto Rosso). Unbelievably good. The full description of all elements isn’t present on the menu, so, I couldn’t 100% tell you what everything was, but I will say it was incredible. The fish is light, yet super flavorful, flaky and tender. It’s complimented by a rich and pleasantly sweet and savory tomato sauce with a touch of tartness, and halves of heirloom cherry tomatoes. It’s served atop a bed of large grain couscous, which, is also awesome. 

The Shorts:
Name: Quality Italian 
Location: 57 West 57th Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Absolutely. I will say, this isn’t the type of place that someone with my wallet could go to often, it’s definitely at more of a finer-dining price, but also very well worth it. 
Would I recommend it? For sure. Power luncher? Special occasion coming up? Just sold some of your old stuff on an app? Go here. You won’t be disappointed.