The Mission Cantina
5946 West Sunset Boulevard
Sunday afternoon had me sleepy and listless. It is a true testament to the power of marriage and a willingness to find happiness in the happiness of your mate that I dragged myself out of tennis garb, into the shower and out of the house for a Sunday evening jaunt in search of an early dinner and a leather jacket.
We found ourselves at Mission Catina. I am somewhat dedicated to both trying everything new and likely that comes across my path, but also lowering the budget of my entertainment/food intake. Mission Cantina fit both bills perfectly.
The menu is tiny. This is not a place to come with someone who is picky, or needs lots of choices. Some tacos, a few appetizers, and lots and lots and lots of tequila.
I love any restaurant where I can gaze into the kitchen. Having worked in the restaurant industry on many levels during my entire twenties, I love to see the inner workings, analyze the interactions between back and front of house, and so on. It is less about checking for cleanliness and the validity of that A rating, and more about the social culture of the establishment. Were I to return to school for my Ph.D in anthropology as initially intended, it might focus on restaurants and their internal workings. There has to be a dissertation in there somewhere.
I fell in love with this light fixture, thinking of course how great it would look in my own Spanish style bungalow circa 1917. It would unfortunately dwarf what is already a small space to begin with, but I like to dream big.
There are 5 of these stained glass light boxed decorating the walls of Mission Cantina. Just stunning. George Abou-Daoud, proprietor of Mission Cantina, Bowery and Delancey, really knows how to grasp a concept and follow it through to its logical and aesthetical conclusion. Cal/Mex Mission design and decor at Mission Cantina, NY local style replete with subway tiles and chalkboards at The Bowery and East Coast Italian at Delancey with exposed brick and housemade pasta.
Although we custom ordered our margs and the bartender/waitress was a little incredulous at the idea of so much tequila in such tiny glasses, they kicked ass. Whatever they're using as mix probably would have also been amazing in a full size glass. There was nothing sweet nor syrupy in this concoction. I had two. I could easily have had three had I not needed to see a man about a dog.
First item of business was the ceviche made with red snapper. Wonderful size and proportion, lots of fish lovingly marinated. Not too acidic...juuust right.
Another thing that made this ceviche great was the amount of fresh veg in, on and under the fish. Cilantro, tomato, cucumber, onion. Crunch, crunch, squish. Very good freshly fried tortilla chips on the side for double dipping. Yes, double dip, I say. Bring on the germs!
tacos de pescado de mahi mahi
Here are the bare bones mahi mahi tacos. Generous portions of fresh mahi simply grilled and served atop fresh tortillas. I would have liked my tortillas grilled a little more, they were a hair on the cool side, and I like them very soft and warm. But they were clearly fresh, if not made just before serving most likely the day of serving or possibly the day prior. Once one has a fresh tortilla off the grill from Central Market or in Puerto Nuevo, Baja, anything less than 30 seconds fresh is not the same dining experience. But my experience was relatively unhindered here.
The menu offers several kinds of topping for your tacos, I think you get two gratis. Since we ordered so many, she brought us one of everything. Sour cream, manchego, salsa verde and regular salsa, regular but dark and smokey although not habanjera.
On another small plate arrives salsa fresca, cebollas with cilantro, jalapenos and pickled red onions.
taco de verduras y pollo con mole
Ok, clearly the taco de pollo con mole was for me. I am not sharing. I added a trace of sour cream and it was....bananas. The tastiest thing I have put in my mouth in weeks. Amazing. The taco de verduras has soft potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, crook neck squash (I think) and onions. Didn't even need salsa, the veggies were so flavorful.
taco de psacado
This is how I like my simple grilled tacos dressed. A little spicy hot sauce and a little manchego. Perfection.
taco de pascado #2
Yes, I ate more than three. I ate four. My fourth I dressed with a little hot sauce and onions/cilantro.
rice & beans
What the heez did they do to this? Not what you get in the average greasy Mexican spoon 'round these parts. The beans were not refried, just stewed beans with manchego. The rice was not Spanish style but was lighter and fluffier, and incredibly flavorful, must have been cooked in chicken broth. I could have had this as a meal.
la escopeta de tequila
Camilo is my all time favorite sipping tequila. It is as close to angel food cake as tequila can get.
With some tequilas, I wonder if the allure is partially in the packaging. These bottles are so beautiful, who can resist?
All in all, this was a success. Mission Cantina has a small menu that delivers what it offers. Simple Mexican food that tastes wonderful on an early Sunday evening, at the true beginning of fall. GREAT service. Thirsty drinks and plenty of them.