What I like about chef Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19 is that it’s in Tijuana, just over the border. There’s something that hop over the imaginary line – seemingly completely unchecked when you are heading into Mexico – does. It’s a weird, wonderful feeling of entering another country even though you were in San Diego twenty minutes before.
Plascencia’s locally sourced menu has been a driving force behind the growing Baja cuisine. The region has long been overlooked. Apart from having superb seafood, Baja has a Mediterranean like climate that allows for superb local products such as olives, grapes, cheeses, figs, fruits, and herbs. Mision 19’s entire menu is sourced from within 120 miles of the restaurant, much of it coming from the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s blossoming wine region. The 4, 6, and 8 course tasting menus –pair them with wine or even agua frescas (piña, guayaba, and mint were offered on my visit) – don’t seem entirely Mexican, but on closer look it’s hard to imagine they could come from anywhere else. A first course came in a jar filled with a tiny terrarium of sorts filled with the green grass of an avocado cream, chayote, and a crunchy base. A take on the Japanese-Peruvian dish tiradito embraces the concept of the paper thin slices, but skips fish for lengua de res, or beef tongue, served with a morcilla vinaigrette and beech mushrooms. A cochinillo taco – a fr cry from the carts in Zona Rio, while a soulful risotto gets touched up with huitalacoche foam, chile de Arbol powder, heirloom beans, and epazote leaves.
In the minutes prior to reaching the address you pass the flashing lights of pharmacies, showgirls, and a Carl’s Jr – a trifecta of sin. The very modern restaurant is the exact opposite of what you would expect a Tijuana restaurant to look like if the only thing you know about the city is from televison debauchery. The glitzy building is outfitted with high tech electronics of every sort – smart elevators and self flushing toilets – that make it as sophisticated as any building in Tokyo. While I’d sort of like to see a great restaurant embrace Tijuana’s kitchiness, I think Mision 19 is something that had to happen first, just to prove it could be done.
Misión de San Javier 10643
Zona Urbana Río Tijuana
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.