- Danny Bowien officially opens Mission Chinese Food.
- The front takeout counter's menu and highlights board evokes other Chinese spots in the area.
- Diners get a view of the kitchen on the way to the dining room.
- Steep steps up into the dining room.
- If the restaurant needs extra chairs, there are plenty on the ceiling.
- There's a tail over the bar. . .
- . . . That belongs to this festive dragon.
- NY's menu features a curious corn-based tea, though it hasn't come in yet.
- AndrewAndrew, the first New Yorkers in the building.
- Mission Chinese Food at rest.
Since chef Danny Bowien relocated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to prep the opening of New York's first Mission Chinese Food (154 Orchard St.), Bon Appetit has wined, dined, and flown him to China, and Eater NY named Mission Chinese Food as its second most anticipated restaurant opening of the spring and summer seasons. But even before that, Bowien had made friends with Anthony Bourdain and appeared on the San Francisco edition of The Layover, hooking him into a certain level of instant exposure.
Last night, Eater was first through the doors when Mission Chinese Food officially opened for dinner in New York—much to the disappointment of famous DJ/art personalities AndrewAndrew, who had hoped to head up the line. They were still the first New Yorkers in the building, anyway. (Actually, a few New Yorkers snuck into the restaurant during a a few test runs over the weekend.) Everything—from Lung Shan-reminiscent red lighting to a Chinese dragon hanging overhead—was in line for a spot-on debut.
1) "It's the new style!" The Beastie Boys' seminal Licensed to Ill album ushered in the first round of dinner guests. RIP MCA.
2) The menu is being described as being about 80% the same as that in San Francisco, but there are regional tweaks to take advantage of the best ingredients in each city. The salt cod fried rice, for example, uses mackerel instead of escolar in New York, while the Westlake rice porridge includes sweet shrimp and ribeye instead of the Dungeness crab and oxtail doled out in the actual Mission.
3) Bathed in red light reminiscent of Lung Shan, the New York location comes complete with a set of steep stairs and therefore has a leg up on preventing the nodding junkies that sometimes wander in from SF's Mission Street. It's also truthfully just a nicer, cleaner space, with a much larger kitchen.
4. There are no Chinese horse paintings on the wall, but there is a funky Chinese dragon hanging over the bar. It's not as elaborate as the Kickstarter-funded one in the 415, but this detail was still a crowd pleaser in New York.
5) The restaurant is going to be closed on Wednesdays because that's how it's done in San Francisco, making this here report an unintentional tease to anyone from the East Coast reading today.
6) After overhearing Bowien say that he plans to travel back and forth between San Francisco and New York and that he wants to open two more restaurants, the manager confirmed that Bowien's long-term hope is to open in Brooklyn and his native Oklahoma City.
7) Lunch and takeout service begins next week, and delivery is coming soon. Citywide delivery, offered in San Francisco, is being contemplated for New York, but they'll have to work up to it.
8) The spot used to be a Thai restaurant called Rhong Tiam/Bia Garden. Apparently it tried too hard to be kitschy and stuck a fake phone booth in front of the dining area in an attempt to create a "secret" space.
9) 75 cents from each dish is earmarked for the Food Bank for New York City. The O.G. Mission Chinese Food has raised over $123,000 for San Francisco Food Bank since its July 2010 debut.
10) By the by, AndrewAndrew recently DJ'd for the official James Beard Foundation Awards afterparty. And despite regularly mixing for and mingling with the music and fashion communities, they didn't miss a beat when they declared chefs as the hardest partiers.