By Wendy Lemlin
When Misión 19 opened in 2011, the sophisticated, stylish restaurant was a game changer for the Tijuana dining scene. The city was just beginning a rebound from some tough years—years when the crossborder tourist stream had slowed to barely a trickle and when even residents were less enthusiastic about going out and socializing at night. Now, five years later, Tijuana is widely acknowledged as a hot culinary destination, and chef/owner Javier Plascencia’s star is shining brighter than ever. Misión 19 has had a lot to do with that.
In early 2012, After the restaurant had been open a little over a year, I wrote in an article for Pacific magazine:
Mision 19 has been garnering mega-buzz since opening in January 2011. Framed on
the entry wall are glowing reviews from the New York Times and other big name pubs. Anthony Bourdain put aside his usual snarkiness and named it the #1 restaurant in Baja…. Mision 19 encapsulates Chef JavierPlascencia’s belief in all the positive things about Tijuana that most people outside the city never hear. “I opened Mision 19 when the reputation of Tijuana was at its worst,” he recounts, “and I wanted to present the city with something personal and special. I wanted to give the people a reason to come out and dine.”
And come they did, and still do. There have always been excellent restaurants in TJ—many, in fact, part of the Plascencia family’s restaurant group, restaurants in which Chef Javier began his career as a boy, working his way up through the kitchen. But five years ago it was rare to find the inventive cuisine and emphasis on locally sourced ingredients that has come to define the “new” Baja cuisine that Misión 19 blazed a trail for, and that we diners are so fortunate to be able to sink our teeth into today.
On January 21, Misión 19 celebrated its fifth anniversary with a festive six course, sold-out dinner, attended by enthusiastic guests from both sides of the border. Each course was inspired by a different city of the Baja border area, except dessert, which paid homage to the Asian influences in Baja cuisine. The evening began with a cocktail reception at the upstairs Bar 20, and I’m told it ended there in the wee hours with an after-party featuring the music of David Bowie, which I’m afraid I didn’t make it to, as dinner continued until close to midnight.
Each course was truly remarkable, the dishes all showcasing Javier Plascencia’s creativity and imaginative interplay of ingredients, coaxing bold statements of flavor and texture from both exotic and commonplace ingredients. Paired with Baja wines (and dessert with a Baja ale), the courses were beautifully balanced and celebrated the local products on which Baja gastronomy hangs its evermore polished crown.
Happy Anniversary to Misión 19 and felicidades muchos to Javier Plascencia for five years of delicious dining, with hopes of many meals more!