Magazine article The New Yorker

Mission Chinese Food

Magazine article The New Yorker

Mission Chinese Food

Article excerpt

Danny Bowien, the thirty-year-old Korean-born chef and main owner of Mission Chinese Food, grew up in Oklahoma eating the Chinese dishes of Middle America, fried rice and lo mein. After stints at white-tablecloth restaurants in New York and San Francisco, Bowien wanted to cook at a place where he and his friends would actually eat on their day off, i.e., cheap and gutsy. He started experimenting--tasting his way through San Francisco's Chinatown--and took over an existing Chinese joint in the Mission district, which went on to incite widespread cultish devotion. For his much ballyhooed outpost here, he chose a curious Lower East Side space that has housed more than one failed Asian expansion project (Bia Garden, Rhong-Tiam). The room, down a dim hallway/kitchen-viewing galley, isn't much to look at--Chinese propaganda poster, big gold dragon--but it doesn't matter, because the food is the star of the show.

Bowien took cues from the tried-and-true tradition of greasy Chinese-American food and one-upped it for some of his best dishes: Kung Pao Pastrami (house-smoked meat, celery, peanuts, red hot chilis); Thrice Cooked Bacon (poached, steamed, and wok-fried--"It's like super-bacon," an ardent fan marvelled); Broccoli Beef Brisket (fat-laced slabs of brisket and Chinese broccoli, doused in garlicky smoked-oyster sauce). The heat of Mapo Tofu--large cubes of silken bean curd tossed with equally large hunks of pork shoulder--spreads like fire in your mouth and stays awhile. …

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