Danny Bowein’s Mission Chinese Makes Stellar Comeback
There have been many, many chefs over the years who, after achieving success and acclaim in other cities, and other countries, have brought their skills to NYC… and then left shortly thereafter, after either a fizzle or a full-on crash and burn, depending upon budget and expectations. Not so the excellent Danny Bowein, whose Mission Chinese Food was wowing San Franciscans for a couple of years before he set up shop on Orchard Street in 2012, and had an immediate hit on his hands, with hours-long waits and stellar reviews all around. Unfortunately, and unwittingly, the building Bowein had chosen for his NYC flagship was a bit of disaster, DOH-wise, and he shuttered the space for good about a year later. So even though I’ve enjoyed a number of terrific meals at Bowein’s spin-off, the great Mexican joint Mission Cantina, like everyone else I’ve also been eagerly awaiting the re-opening of Chinese. Which has now finally happened and in time for the Chinese New Year. And it is wonderful.
Mission Chinese Food; New Location Brings Inviting Vibe
I’ve been to Bowein’s new Mission Chinese Food twice already–it just started serving right before Christmas–and am delighted to report that the man, and his trademark creative, often blistering-hot cuisine, are back in a big way. First, the restaurant’s physical space, while perhaps lacking the big-reveal “wow” moment of the old place, is much larger, with plenty of room between tables and rows of red banquets on either side. True, there’s no swooping dragon, nor chairs hanging from the ceiling, but the back wall of mylar, the solid playlist, the casual-yet-professional staff, the Lower East Side location and the happy crowd all contribute to make Mission Chinese NYC 2.0 a fun, festive setting for a feast.
Mission’s Menu Goes Deeper than Standard Chinese Food Offerings
And feast you will! Bowein’s much-expanded Mission Chinese menu includes old favorites, new delights, pizza (huh?), a pair of chef’s choice, multi-course “tasting” options, all served family style in generous portions for reasonable prices. On my first visit, on just the second night the place was open, I wolfed Bowein’s classic Kung Pao Pastrami, which was actually not as incendiary as I remembered it, though the meat was still rich and nicely chewy and complemented nicely with the potatoes and peanuts. Better on this night, maybe, was the more subdued Stir Fried Pork Belly and Radishes, which, when combined with the thick black bean sauce, crunchy chicharrones, and aromatic shiso and mint leaves, hit just about every sweet spot on my palate. At both meals the kitchen delivered a pair of dumplings, fried to form a lattice-like base and exceptionally good, to every table as a kind of hefty amuse bouche.
On my second visit I managed to work my way through four additional dishes on the Mission Chinese menu: the sleeper hit Chongqing Chicken Wings, which are fried in a beef tripe batter, and are insanely spicy without losing the taste of the juicy bird; the equally fiery Thrice Cooked Bacon, which remains a big winner, with its pillowy rice cakes; a bowl of Chewy Green Tea Noodles, perfectly cooked, redolent with ginger and sweetened with hoisin, highly recommended as a kind of calming-down dish amidst all of the heat; and Salt Cod Fried Rice with Chinese sausage, which, like the noodles, functions as a bit of respite while also being just flat-out tasty in and of itself. Can’t wait to go back and get even deeper into Bowein’s many offerings… including that Hot Cheese Pizza. Welcome back, Mission Chinese Food.
Lower East Side’s Spot for Delicious Chinese Food
The new Mission Chinese Food is located on East Broadway, just east of Rutgers Street, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 12:00 midnight. Note: Mission Chinese does not accept reservations, and waits have been long these first couple of weeks, a state of affairs that seems unlikely to end soon. I arrived both nights at 5:00 in order to get seated right away, and it worked, but don’t show up at 8:00 thinking you’ll just waltz in and get a table. For slightly more information, see here…