Zagat Editor James Mulcahy dropped by a new Lower East Side Chinese transplant from San Francisco that also serves up a charitable twist, and he filed the following report.
Mission Chinese Food comes to New York via San Francisco, where chef Danny Bowien gained popularity for his take on Sichuan food.
"There are certain things that are always going to be on the menu, like the ma pao tofu. That's a dish that really inspired me," Bowien says. "It's a beautiful dish because it really highlights the soul of Sichaun cooking, that's the backbone of Sichaun cuisine. For us, we just try to make our version that we would like to eat."
Like in San Francisco, guests at the Lower East Side eatery can expect a hip and casual environment that's hidden behind what looks like a normal Chinese takeout shop. Bowien prides himself on the relaxed vibe.
"I want people to feel welcome and also hopefully forgiving," says Bowien.
New Yorkers have already descended on the new restaurant, where hour-long waits are not uncommon. For those who do have to wait, Bowen does his best to make sure his guests you're comfortable.
"I feel horrible if people have to wait three hours. So we'll give you free beer, as long as you're 21," says Bowien. "Hopefully when someone comes to our restaurant, if it's a cook, or an out-of-towner, they would just feel comfortable."
Bowien's personal mission is about more than feeding his guests. A portion of the proceeds at his restaurants are donated to food-related charities.
"In San Francisco and New York we donate $0.75 from each entree to a food related charity. In doing so, in San Francisco for the past two years we've raised over $122,000. In New York it's a little different. We have a bar, from each cocktail we'll donate $0.75 to a rotating, food-based charity," says Bowien. "The first month it's going to be Bowery Mission, the second month Edible Schoolyard, and so on. It's really cool to be able to reach out and give back, we want to use whatever leverage we have to help other people."
For more information about Mission Chinese Food and other new restaurants, visit blog.zagat.com.