People: Sekita, SaSha and myself
Feelings: The San Franciso's cult favorite, Mission Chinese Food's arrival in the Lower East Side is perhaps the most anticipated restaurant opening of the year so far, and Chef Danny Bowien's new outpost features some of the most flavorful, spiciest dishes.
As Chef Bowien himself sat quietly at the bar, hearing us contemplate their recommend dish, "Thrice Cooked Bacon" ($11.5 from large dish menu, with Shanghainese rice cakes, tofu skin, bitter melon, and chili oil), he calmly stood up and brought us a complimentary offering. Thank you chef--the dish was a highlight of my week. Although I don't eat meat, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the soft and chewy rice cakes and the juicy tofu skin covered in the intense flavor and aroma of chili oil and ultra smokey bacon. This dish hits your palate and soul in a tingly and tantalizing way. Truly remarkable.
The food is the star here. Everything tasted fresh, clean and overall, comforting. We ordered and shared many dishes, including Sichuan pickled vegetables ($4), stir fried pork jowl and radishes ($11), kung pao pastrami ($11), and wild pepper leaves ($11 with pressed tofu, pumpkin and salted chili broth) and quickly realized that there is an art to ordering the right flavoring combination at this eclectic restaurant full of creative dishes:
- Large dishes are enormous and can easily serve three people, so definitely bring friends and enjoy the food as a family style.
- Their spicy dishes are aggressively spicy--no joke. The liberal use of sichuan peppercorn will leave your tongue numb and dizzy for a while. Make sure to order pickled vegetables to bring your palate back to reality. However, if you're with a bad date, you can blame on peppercorns for the lack of talking.
- Make sure to order rice, tea and non spicy dishes to neutralize the spicy experience.
The staff is attentive and helpful, and the decor is very casual with red neon lights. I cannot fail to mention their interesting twist of Twin Peaks themed bathrooms. There is nothing more conducive to bathroom duties than listening to the gentle Twin Peaks theme song and Laura Palmer portrait staring you down while you take care of business.
Mission Chinese Food, both SF and NY locations are closed on Wednesdays, and they only take reservations for the 12 seats. There are long waits for dinner at this cramped joint, so Monday early lunch (lunch open from 11:30am-3pm) is the way to go.