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Mission Chinese Food

  • Restaurants
  • Two Bridges
  • price 2 of 4
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
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Time Out Says

3 out of 5 stars

At his Mission Chinese redux, Danny Bowien has traded 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 have retained their unmerciful, skin-rippling heat, but other Bowien-fan favorites have had their burners turned down: The kung pao pastrami 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 blistered by 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 is over-the-top lardy—one bite satisfies your fat quota for the day. Better are the Jurassic salt-and-pepper lamb rib tips, 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—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.

Written by
Christina Izzo

Details

Address:
171 East Broadway
New York
10002
Cross street:
between Jefferson and Rutgers Sts
Transport:
Subway: F to East Broadway
Price:
Average price: $15. AmEx, MC, V
Opening hours:
Tue–Sun 5:30pm–midnight
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