Entries in Mission Chinese Food (10)


Practice Makes Perfect (Americanized Oriental Food)

Mission Chinese Food became an instant hit when it opened on Orchard Street last May. The restaurant introduced New Yorkers to Danny Bowien's unique cuisine, one he refers to as "Americanized Oriental Food," and revealed his generous approach to hospitality. In this short video from Nowness, Bowien cites Spicy Village on Forsyth in Chinatown as a source of inspiration, "I probably ate here 20 times and we honestly totally knocked off a few of their dishes because they're so delicious."

He also draws comparissons in cooking to music, explaining that, "As a cook you have to cook and you have to cook a lot; sixteen hours a days sometimes and it's very phsyical. Same with being in a band, you have to record, and you have to tour. You have to practice a lot." [EN]


Thank You 2012

Last year was an exciting year for food. Mission Chinese and Pok Pok both opened East Coast outposts, two new chef's counters opened via Atera and Blanca, Pete Wells a) became the New York Times food critic and b) wrote a historically scathing review of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant, Dinosaur BBQ announced 604 Union Street in Brooklyn as its next home, Andrew Carmellini opened The Library with work on his French resto Lafayette getting well underway, Gabe Stulman's Little Wisco Empire grew by two via Perla and Chez Sardine (Montmarte, Stulman's next project, will open this year in Chelsea), April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman opened Salvation Taco, The Nomad happened, so did a culinary swap between Eleven Madison Park and Alinea, Italian cuisine invaded SoHo via Principessa, Angelo SoHo, Galli, and Isola Trattoria e Crudo Bar, Great Googa Mooga attracted over 30,000 people to Prospect Park in May, and the entire industry came together after devestation swept through the city in the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

Also in 2012, Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood got its first wine store via Gowanus Wine Merchants, and Third Avenue in the same Brooklyn neighborhood saw the opening of The Pines (our 2012 favorite) and Runner & Stone on the same stretch between Carroll and President Streets (Littleneck is on the same block), creating a culinary nucleus of sorts. Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue gave Third Ave a boost a few blocks south when it opened between 7th and 8th Streets last fall. Generally speaking, 2012 was a big year for the borough of Brooklyn. Josh Ozersky wrote 2,000 words to the contrary last year, but the quality of food and number of dining options in Kings County seemed to increase tenfold. Last year alone the borough welcomed Reynard, Gwynnett Street, Aska came and Frej went, Ganso, Talde, Pork Slope, Dassara, Hunter's, Red Gravy, Governor, Gran Electrica, La Vara, Lulu & Po, The Wallace, Dear Bushwick, and Bristket Town. Speedy Romeo, Krescendo, and Brooklyn Central gave pizza fenatics a handful of new options and there was the whole Grimaldi's/Juliana debacle to boot.

The 2013 train is already set in motion and looking to bring another exciting year. Ivan Orkin will open his first stateside ramen shop, the boys behind Torrisi will open two spots on Thompson Street via The Lobster Club and Carbone, Michael White will open The Butterfly, Ristorante Morini uptown and possibly something in the former Fiamma space (the building was sold by BR Guest's Steven Hanson at the end of last year and White's Altamarea Group is leasing the space from the new owners), and Andy Ricker will be opening a Brooklyn outpost of his Portland-based Whiskey Soda Lounge half a block north from Pok Pok Ny on Columbia Street in the spring. Even for the superstitious, there's luck to be had in 2013 and it may come in the form of a Battersby expansion.

For both Manhattan and Brooklyn (and the other, lesser explored boroughs by Digest NY), the lists go on and on and will get even longer as the days of 2013 start to come and go. As they do, we'll be here to keep you abreast and athigh of the latest and greatest of all things food in the greatest city there is.

Happy 2013 New York!


Go On with Your Bad Self, Mr. Bowien

The end of the year is a time when food critics weigh in on all that happened in the restaurant industry over the last twelve months. In place of a review this week, New York Times critic Pete Wells wrote "12 Restaurant Triumphs of 2012." "At the end of my first year in the restaurant critic’s chair," he writes, "the New York dining landscape still looks like a wonderland to me." The list of 12 restaurants is arranged as a countdown, described as "a cardiogram, with each spike in the chart denoting a restaurant that made my heart race this year." Among the excitement-inducing restaurants are Gwynnett St (12), Calliope (11), Blanca (10), Pok Pok Ny (7), Atera (4), and The Nomad (3).

Landing the number 1 spot is Danny Bowien's Lower East Side smash Mission Chinese Food. "For its bravado, its inventiveness, its low prices, its attempt to ease the suffering of those waiting at the door by tapping a small keg of free beer, and its promise to give some of its earnings on each entree to a food bank, Mission Chinese was the most exciting restaurant of the year."

The free beer while you wait, the donation of .75 cents from the sale of every entree to the Food Bank for NYC, and the low price point at Mission Chinese (with the exception of the cumin lamb breast [$16] and the veal breast a la orange [$24], nothing on the menu exceeds $13), are part of the formula at a restaurant that has quickly established itself as an exciting venue for those seeking a delicious, affordable, vibrant, unique take on Sichuan cuisine in a room unlike no other in the city. "No other restaurant I reviewed this year," Wells explains, "left me feeling as exhilarated each time I got up from the table."


Issue #5 is Around the Corner

In our humble opinion, Lucky Peach is the most exciting piece of media, print or otherwise, covering all things culinary. The brainchild of David Chang, Chris Ying, and Peter Meehan, Lucky Peach is doing for the world of food writing the same thing Chang did for New York when he opened Noodle Bar in '04.

Issue #5 is the Chinatown Issue. Momofuku's blog invites readers to "explore what happens when chinese food leaves the motherland," and on Tuesday, November 13th, you can "read up on chinese-korean noodles, the san gabriel valley, opium dens, crab rangoons and magical white balls." The fifth go 'round also features a few words from Anthony Bourdain and recipes from Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien.

Catch Chang tonight on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon.


It's My Party, and I'll Sit Incomplete If I Want To

ottoFlorence Fabricant writes a column for the Diner's Journal titled "Dear Flo Flab," in which she takes questions and "gives advice on the fine points of entertaining at home and eating in restaurants."  The (usually) sound advice comes from someone who is clearly experienced and well versed in all things food.  One question in the column's return yesterday addresses the issue of seating incomplete parties:

Seating incomplete parties does zero good for a restaurant.  Restaurants like Otto and Balthazar serve well over 2,000 people during the weekend alone.  Plenty of other restaurants match these numbers, numbers that would not be attainable if incomplete seating policies were not in place.  The policy is even more understandable at small places like Mission Chinese Food, where, "You're looking at two hours" for a wait for two on Saturday night.  If parties are allowed to sit and hold a table for X amount of time while they wait for their friends to "park the car," "come back from the bathroom," or "close the bar tab," dinner cannot commence.  A party sat incomplete raises the wait times for everyone else.  Every square inch of real estate in NYC is valuable and restaurants, down to the tables and chairs, are no exception.

A recent article in the New Yorker titled "Check, Please" explores the challenges fine dining restaurants face making money.  Fine dining aside, every restaurant faces the same challenges.  In "Check, Please," John Colapinto explores different ways in which restaurants maximize the diner's experience while turning the table in the quickest time possible.  Turn tables, turn a profit.

Not every restaurant should adhere to a strict incomplete seating policy.  If the dining room is only half full, sit the incomplete party.  But, if the restaurant is on a wait, it makes complete sense, and should be expected, that priority will go to groups that are "all here."


Danny Bowien's Food Knows How to Work the Camera

If you haven't been to Danny Bowien's San Fran import yet, or seen our First Bite, here's another way to see what's going down at 154 Orchard Street.

Mission Chinese Food has only been on the East Coast for two and a half months, but Bowien's creative vision fuels a constantly evolving menu.  The original 23-item-menu from the early days at the end of May now has 28 options.  You can't get those Lamb Cheek Dumplings in Red Oil or the Tea Smoked Eel anymore, but you can get Red Braised Pigs Tails ($10) and "Married Couple's" Beef ($9). 

The large dishes have seen the most changes, though in typical generous Bowien fashion, nothing exceeds $15.  Kung Pao Pastrami ($11) is not likely to disappear anytime soon.  New additions are Sizzlin Cumin Lamb Breast ($13) and Catfish a la Sichuan ($13).

Don't worry, that free keg of beer is still on offer for those waiting for a table which, in our opinion, is always worth the inevitable wait.


"Danny Bowien Was In Swim Trunks"

In his review this week, Wells gives Mission Chinese Food two stars and proves to like Danny Bowien's San Fran import a little more than Adam Platt did. 

Wells hints at the waits you're liable to experience, which happen in any decent restaurant here in the city, especially when its only 30 or so seats.  "Outside on Orchard Street, they were waiting, all right..." "Unseen others were sitting in bars nearby, wondering whether they would order a third round before the phone rang."

Led Zepplin was playing during some of Wells' meal.  "Mr. Bowien does to Chinese food what Led Zeppelin did to the blues. His cooking both pays respectful homage to its inspiration and takes wild, flagrant liberties with it. He grabs hold of tradition and runs at it with abandon, hitting the accents hard, going heavy on the funk and causing all kinds of delicious havoc."

What Danny Bowien is trying to do at 154 Orchard Street is a healthy fusion he himself has dubbed "Americanized Oriental Food."  But, there's more to it than that.  He draws influences from his past.  Bowien is Korean born, adopted and raised in Oklahoma.  He's a generous guy.  Nothing on the menu is more than $15 and 75 cents from every dish goes to the Food Bank for New York

The two stars should be as much a representation of the food/experience at Mission Chinese as they are an honor bestowed on Bowien for his undeniably unique approach and his one-of-a-kind perspective on a cuisine and business model he has made entirely his own.


Danny Bowien Is On a Mission

Mission Chinese started as a pop-up in San Francisco in April of 2010.  Just over a month ago, on May 22nd, 154 Orchard Street became the East Coast home for what the restaurant's website calls chef Danny Bowien's "Americanized Oriental" food.  In just two years, Danny Bowien's unique approach and generosity have his name being thrown around with the likes of David Chang and Andy Ricker.

In his two and a half star review of Mission Chinese Food today, Ryan Sutton refers to Danny as "a philanthropic kind of guy."  Bowien was born in South Korea and rasied by adopted parents in Oklahoma.  He's humble, reluctant to take credit for his mission.  He gives it to "fucking awesome cooks around me to make me look good."  He donates 75 cents from every dish he sells to the Food Bank of New York and his San Fran location has "raised almost $150,000 for the Food Bank, [which makes] you feel like you can mess up a little bit and still be okay. I’m not taking a salary here [in New York], so that I can just put everything back into the restaurant and our cooks."

Bowien is already miles down the road less traveled and his is a name added to the growing list of "high-profile ambassadors for a cuisine in which he has no family roots."  His take on authenticity?  "Who cares anymore?  What's the point?  Authentic isn't even good sometimes.  It's just, do you like the taste or not?  If I stay closed-minded and say I'm not making it if it's not authentic, I can only get so far.  To become great, you can't box yourself in.  I won't allow that."