Misión 19 in Tijuana, chef Javier Plascencia's first independent venture, is celebrating its one-year-anniversary. Read "The Missionary," a profile of Plascencia by Dana Goodyear in this week's New Yorker, and you'll learn why that matters.
Plascencia's mission is to bring innovative but authentic cuisine to the notorious border city where he grew up, Goodyear writes. And he's created Misión 19 as an ultra-hip spot to draw locals and tourists alike into the fold. His ambition is no less than to spur a culinary renaissance in troubled but vibrant Tijuana.
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Goodyear writes that Tijuana is uniquely positioned to achieve the revival that Plascencia hopes for: "...an unself-conscious, sophisticated local culture has emerged in Tijuana--mescal bars, elegant cafés, experimental taco stands with twenty-five salsas--that is now being discovered by the food-adventurous."
A handful of Angelenos may know Plascencia's cooking from his three-night stint at the Test Kitchen in 2010. (Our critic reported: "A short rib wrapped in fig leaves and roasted over wood was astonishing: The sweet, charred fragrance that floated from the meat when you unwrapped the package was intoxicating as perfume, and the few drops of black, bitter mole on the plate, flavored with raw cacao, were as different from most poblano moles as the space shuttle is from a Piper Cub.")
Plascencia also appeared last July at a Pasadena street-food festival, where he won Best in Show for "oyster asada" -- grilled oysters topped with short-rib chicharrones, lemongrass foam, and ponzu sauce, according to Goodyear. Otherwise, Plascencia has been drumming up such inventions at his family's several restaurants in Tijuana and Chula Vista. And now, at Misión 19.
Is it coincidence that Javier Plascencia opened Misión 19 on a street called Misión San Javier? Maybe it's fate. And if the chef achieves his mission, foodists just might erect his statue among the other Mexican heroes on Paseo de los Héroes a few blocks away.