In his initial 2011 review of the then-novel Mission Chinese, Danny Bowien's high-profile, low-ambiance foray into what Bauer called "alternative dining scenarios," the critic awarded three stars for food (and two stars overall) for dishes "so spectacular that they more than make up for any misfires." In a 2012 update visit where Bauer received a "lukewarm and unopened" can of beer, he kept the rating but noted the "S&M nature" of the food and the "wanton nature" of the physical surroundings. "At Mission Chinese Food, it's all about the food."
Now, with Bowien off running his NYC Mission Chinese outpost and new Mission Cantina, Bauer's latest update found the restaurant "simply a dive, without the charm [Bowien's] inventive and soulful food gave it."
"Many favorites are a shadow of what they were when I initially reviewed the restaurant," he lamented, citing "dry as sawdust" salt-cod fried rice, the "greasy broth" and "one-dimensional heat" of the ma po tofu, and braised pea leaves in broth "so lackluster it tasted like the dried chile soaking water." Though he still thinks Bowien is "a chef with a lot of talent," "dish after dish missed the mark."
Without food that wowed, the restaurant's one-star ambiance finally got to Bauer, with "perfunctory" service, "rickety" surroundings and long waits for diners with "no acknowledgment after they sign in on a clipboard." There's a lot to forgive at Mission Chinese, where "if one element is off, the entire effort falls flat ... the counterculture vibe loses its charm, and Mission Chinese Food becomes nothing more than a greasy spoon." 1.5 stars for food (down from three); 1.5 stars overall. [Chron]
· Dish after dish misses the mark at Mission Chinese Food [Chron]
· Mission Chinese Food still a mixed blessing (2012) [Chron]
· Mission Chinese Food review: Distinct, inexpensive (2011) [Chron]