An ambitious reboot that falls short of greatness.
Danny Bowien has gone normcore. Since shuttering his kaleidoscopic Szechuan clubhouse Mission Chinese Food in November 2013 due to Department of Buildings violations, the James Beard Award–winning wunderkind has become a father, sheared his trademark Fabio-blond locks and opened a bland Mexican offshoot, Mission Cantina, to middling reviews.
That relative conservatism is at play at the relaunched Mission Chinese, trading in beer kegs, paper dragons and a cramped, dive-punk Orchard Street basement for smart cocktails, banquet-hall booths and an ample, gleaming dining room in the far reaches of Chinatown.
That inescapable hour-long wait for a table can be spent in the downstairs bar, but the real party is upstairs—a lively hodgepodge of bespectacled food disciples and beanie-clad millennials spinning lazy Susans loaded with pork cheeks and turnip cakes while golden-age hip-hop pumps through the room. It’s a rollicking good time, sure, but a wildly inconsistent one.
The Scoville-crushing chicken wings ($13) have retained their unmerciful, skin-rippling heat, but other Bowien-fan favorites have had their burners turned down: The kung pao pastrami ($14) is a flickering flame compared to the four-alarm-chili roar it once was.
The menu expands from those oldies with 30-plus new dishes, many of which show Bowien—with executive chef Angela Dimayuga—hasn’t wholly lost his edge. A tin of anchovies, served with tartine flatbread ($12.50) blistered via a wood oven inherited from former tenant Rosette, packs a power punch of pickled chili and crunchy fennel seed. It’s salty, spicy and impossible to stop picking at.
The whole-smoked pork jowl ($35) is over-the-top lardy—one bite satisfies your fat quota for the day. Better are the Jurassic salt-and-pepper lamb rib tips ($37), soft and lax on the bone. Slick a piece of flatbread with kefir crème fraîche, then pile on a few shreds of lamb and a zippy bread-and-butter pickle—it’s Mission-gone-Moroccan, and staunchly, singularly Bowien.
Point of view has never been the chef’s problem—he’s got personality in spades. But that freewheeling, dip-a-toe gumption often translates to a lack of focus. There’s simply too much going on here: a sea-urchin-stocked raw bar, a roaming prime-rib cart and, most egregiously, pizza ($14)—a soggy, passable pie added to the menu simply because of that wood oven’s existence. The old idiom applies: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
|Venue name:||Mission Chinese Food||Contact:|
171 East Broadway
|Cross street:||between Jefferson and Rutgers Sts|
|Opening hours:||Tue–Sun 5:30pm–midnight|
|Transport:||Subway: F to East Broadway|
|Price:||Average price: $15. AmEx, MC, V|
|Do you own this business?|
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Average User Rating
2.7 / 5
- 5 star:1
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:2
- 2 star:2
- 1 star:1
When Mission Chinese Food was on Orchard, I was aiming to be its most frequent customer– it was a simple Sichuan adventure by filled with cheap, spicy, mouth tingling staples.
Now lets talk about this mess of a eatery. Besides moving, the menu has evolved into a cornucopia of science experiments that warrant an intervention. Very few iconic dishes made it to the new location but its not a compelling reason to go back if you've dined there before.
Overall, I will not be going back here again, now if you're talking about his San Francisco location– let me buy my plane tickets.
If you’re into Szechuan food this is for you. Unfortunately this was a bit much for me. Not because of the actual flavors – the food looked delicious. But because of those peppercorn things that are used to add heat, but end up making your entire face go numb. Normally I pick them out (as whole balls) but this restaurant seemed to grind them up, so there was no avoiding them, and frustratingly I couldn’t taste any of my food because my face was so numb! I also turned up on time for my table booking that I paid $5 through the reserve app (that’s the only way to book) and still had a 30 minute wait!