Dining at the New York outpost of Mission Chinese has generated the same fever pitch as its San Francisco sibling where chef Danny Bowien creates “Americanized Oriental Food” in a dive bar setting. CHOW.com contributing editor Pervaiz Shallwani filed the following report.
What do you get when you take someone born in South Korea, adopted and raised in Oklahoma and obsessed with Szechuan food? Kung Pao Pastrami.
It’s a good example of Danny Bowien’s so-called “Americanized Oriental Food,” a combination of spice, nostalgia and fun, catapulting Mission Chinese from food truck to international cult following in San Francisco and now New York.
Two months since opening in a former Thai takeout spot on the Lower East Side, the waits remain an hour and beyond. Free beer from a Miller High Life keg helps.
The largely-unchanged space maintains a gritty feel with dim lighting, Chinese New Year-like decor and high-decibel music, with 75 cents from each drink and dish going to a local charity.
Bowien’s not shy with the Szechuan peppercorns, whole-fried chilies and glistening housemade chili oils. At times, they can be overwhelming but usually the spice lingers happily.
Cocktails like the T-1000, made up of cantaloupe, soy milk, black pepper and soju, help and don’t overlook subtle dishes to balance the spice, such as foie gras-like lobes of monkfish liver sashimi and rich salt-cod fried rice with sweet Chinese sausage. The heat comes at you in different ways.
Crisp Chongqing Chicken Wings are studded with whole chilies and addictive morsels of crunchy beef tripe. Catfish a la Sichuan starts with fresh fish and a balance of three vinegars that’s refreshing, even in the summer. Then the chili oil and peppers quickly take over, coating your mouth with a slow, smooth and tingly burn.
And finally, there’s the Kung Pao Pastrami, which joins the best of Oklahoma BBQ with the best Chinese takeout. A brisket is rubbed with a pastrami spice, laced with pulverized Szechuan peppercorns and wood-smoked for 12 hours. The tender beef is wok-fried with roasted potato sticks, red peppers and celery and finished with peanuts and a spicy paste Bowien calls “chili crisp.”
It’s hard not to over order so come with a group. Just be ready for a marathon meal and keep the beer nearby. Mission Chinese is located at 154 Orchard St., Manhattan.
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