Every December 25th, Jews around the world take part in the traditional Christmas dinner of wonton soup and chow fun. This year, I decided to set up the Jewish Christmas Food Tour for anyone to replicate and conducted a test run at the start of November. Everything began swimmingly.
First, my food-tour-team stopped at Joe’s Shanghai and ordered two bamboo baskets of soup dumplings. The waiters were not happy when we asked for our bill after devouring the dumplings. It amounted to $12 with tax and tip. (But that’s how you eat on a food tour.)
But after Joe’s, much of the rest of the tour fell apart.
My two Australian buddies, Dave and Yvonne from the taco tour post, and my mate (which is Australian for friend) Ross then went in search of big spicy chicken, a dish that my homegirl (that’s gangsta for mate) Lam has raved about for months. (Special note: Amigo, which is Spanish for friend, is the name my two Australian pals chose for their dog.)
We found ourself combing dark alleys underneath the Manhattan Bridge for this big spicy chicken, but the Internet informed us that the restaurant had closed for good. As a back up plan, Ross and Dave suggested that we try Mission Chinese down on Orchard Street.
When we arrived, the hostess told us that our wait would be two hours, so we decided to kill some time with pastrami sandwiches at Katz’s Deli, still apropos for the Jewish Christmas in New York Food Tour. We ate and nodded vigorously, my favorite non-verbal approval of a good meal.
Forty minutes later, our friend Matt Cwern joined our food tour just in time to receive the call from Mission Chinese that our table was ready.
Originally, this post was going to read something like this:
Enjoy a Jewish Christmas in New York
If you’re celebrating a Jewish Christmas in New York, you should start with soup buns at Joe’s, put your name down at Mission Chinese, eat a pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli, and wait for the call to come through that your table is ready at Mission’s.
However, Mission Chinese, with its specious hole-in-the-wall reception area that gives way to a trendy, dark, dragon-filled dining room also had an unnoticeable Health-Department-issued “Grade Pending” flyer taped to their window. I have eaten at a number of C establishments, as some of my favorite restaurants have received that near kiss of death, and I have also eaten at a few “Grade Pending” eateries that managed to bounce back to a B. But I have never eaten at a “Grade Pending” location that was actually shut down by the Health Department. Mission was shut down a few days after our visit.
Now that Mission Chinese is gone for now–it’s meant to return this February–the central restaurant for my Jewish Christmas in New York post is no more. But since Ross, Cwern, Dave, Yvonne, and I all claimed Mission Chinese to be one of the best bites in New York City, I thought I would honor this filthy gourmand’s lair this Christmas as we all look forward to their resurrection in the New Year. (And if Mission Chinese didn’t have the lighting of a darkroom, I would have posted pictures of the following dishes that changed five lives forever):
Kung Pao Pastrami: One of the best bites ever ingested as stated by two of the five diners.
Chongqing Chicken Wings: These wings made us all feel as if we were tripping on spices. But the delicious cumin and sugar rub and the bath of dried chilies that it sat in made this appetizer my favorite. The little nuggets of beef tripe only made the dish taste like manna from heaven.
Pig Ear Terrine: This one, actually, I could have done without.
We also got some lamb dish that was the most expensive on the menu, at about $18 (most dishes were $10-$12), but it was well worth the extra bucks.
I was saddened that they had run out of tendon salad and that we had only two votes for General Tsao’s BBQ Pigtails.
So while Mission Chinese and the restaurant serving up the big spicy chicken dish are both gone, I suggest checking out some of my past Chinatown favorites if you’re planning on spending a Jewish Christmas in New York.