As someone whose family has been vacationing on the Old Mission Peninsula for over 100 years, since the early 1900s, I was excited about going to Mission Table as a way of sampling local food and supporting a local business. Boy was I disappointed.
I knew we were in trouble when I asked to see the wine list and all that was available were three reds and six whites, all of which were from wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula. The Peninsula has lots to recommend it, but wine is not one of them. The whites are, to be charitable, highly marginal, and the reds are all but undrinkable--better suited for cooking wine than drinking. If I go out to a restaurant and spend some hard earned money, I at least want a decent bottle of wine. The inferior wines at Mission Table were a clear indication that the proprietors were willing to sacrifice quality on altar of localism.
Instead of wine I went with a strawberry-rhubarb mojito, which, like the wine list also presaged the food to come. The mojito was a disappointment and a rip-off: the mint leaves were not crushed but merely placed whole in the glass; there was very little rum in the drink; and the tall, narrow glass consisted almost entirely of ice.
As for the food, our party of four ordered a variety of small plates-- grilled vegetable terrine, taco, lamb chops, BLT, risotto, beets, smoked whitefish dip, and mission salad--and one large plate--Great Lakes whitefish. So here's the rundown.
Grilled vegetable terrine. The terrine (tomato based) tasted as if it was made from canned tomatoes and the accompanying sauces/dips were largely tasteless: the "Warm douglas valley goat cheese fondue" was essentially a thick white sauce with only the faintest hint of goat cheese (rip off); the black olive tapanade could easily have come from a jar; and the basil puree tasted of over-the-hill, minty basil.
Taco. The braised beef cheeks were dry and under-seasoned, and the remaining components--avocado and chipotle cream--were very pedestrian.
BLT. The best of the small plates, which is not saying much. The bacon was very good, but the "zenner tomato" was sliced so thin (another rip-off) it was overwhelmed by the bacon.
Lamb chops. Ordinary quality, but overcooked, which rendered them dry.
Risotto. The rice was undercooked, which gave it an unpleasantly hard center. The truffle oil and reggiano parmesan were in such small quantities that they were barely noticeable (yet another rip off). Also, rice does not grow on the Old Mission Peninsula so this clearly violates the restaurant’s local in
Beets. Roasted local beets were bland and appear to have been steamed or boiled, not roasted. Many varieties of beets are available locally--(e.g. golden, variegated) either on the Peninsula or at the wonderful Traverse City Farmer's Market, which is held from early April through early December--and would have, at the very least, made a more visually striking presentation that the red beets on which this dish was based. But perhaps the proprietors of Mission Table are too lazy to make a weekly trip to the Farmer's Market. Or perhaps they don't see the need since their commitment to local food appears to be more window dressing than genuine.
Smoked whitefish dip. The dip consisted of so much dairy (cream and cheese) that what little whitefish there was (another rip off) was overwhelmed. This is more of a warm dairy dip with a hint of whitefish than the other way around.
Mission salad. Ordinary and nothing to write home about.
Whitefish (large plate): Overcooked, dry and tarted up with some distinctly non-local ingredients--Sesame crust, soy glazed pork belly, quinoa salad, pea shoots, miso vinaigrette.
Our dessert selections were lemon-ricotta cheesecake and peach melba. The cheesecake had the faintest taste of lemon and the accompanying raspberry puree was unmemorable.
The low-light of the evening, and which encapsulated all that is wrong with Mission Table, was the peach melba. The melba consisted of a single peach cut in half. Unfortunately, the peach was so unripe it was hard and sour halfway through, making it inedible (the biggest rip off of the evening). That an unripe peach would be served was all the more galling since delicious and ripe peaches were readily available at roadside fruit stands up and down the Peninsula, and one such stand was no more than 3 miles from Mission Table.
I've rechristened Mission Table "Peach Melba Table" because this dish so perfectly encapsulates the restaurant and it approach to food: substandard quality, poor preparation, pretense, and rip-offs (largely non-existent, substandard, and undersized portions of ingredients) around every corner.
Ordinarily, I would be prepared to cut Mission Table a break. After all it's a new restaurant with a noble mission, and its location in a place that is very special to me, and where my family has been going for over 100 years, made me want so badly for it to be good, or at least passable. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, the polar opposite is. The restaurant is a rip-off (see above), and for this reason I unfortunately have to give it this review. While I will forgive an honest, if incompetent effort, I will not do so for a dishonest effort. Mission Table falls into this latter category.
Mission Table talks the talk of local ingredients and good food, but this appears to be less of a genuine commitment than it is a ploy with which to part you from your hard earned cash.