Monday, June 11, 2012

Mission: Accomplished

Danny Bowien has already made a name for himself with Mission Chinese Food (MCF). Since launching the cult favorite in San Francisco two years ago, the young chef has been earning praise for his updated take on Sichuan cuisine. MCF’s newly christened and much anticipated first New York City outpost, open for exactly three weeks now on the Lower East Side, began drawing crowds early on. I headed over on Sunday afternoon with my Veganaut friends, no reservations (literally), on a hope and a prayer and found that we have great timing.

We stepped though MCF NY’s door—the place kind of has a cool hidden feel—to post-hardcore band Boysetsfire blasting over a takeout counter and a view of Danny himself doing his thing in the kitchen. The vibe was perfect and I have to admit, I was a little bit star-struck. Also, I have to admit to wondering where the hell we were going to sit…

After learning there was no wait for a table, our host lead us through a long-ish corridor, past the kitchen and up a small flight of stars to a tucked-away dining room complete with a bar.

With a handful of offerings on the menu that are or can be made vegan (unexpected, even: Stir-fried Pork Jowl and Radishes—what?), MCF NY is perfect for mixed groups. We started ordering plate after plate, choosing to eat family style. “The Thrice Cooked Bacon can be vegan,” our waiter suggested. “They just leave out the bacon and add in extra tofu skins. It’s so good!”

He wasn’t joking.

My only advice: If you’re heat-sensitive, pay attention to the flames on the menu when ordering—they’re there for a reason. With the exception of the Fresh Tofu Poached in Soymilk, Beijing Vinegar Peanuts and the Wild Pepper Leaves, everything we ordered was super-hot; but as far as I’m concerned that heat served as a necessary part of the flavor.

What we ate (and I would go back to eat again… And again):

Beijing Vinegar Peanuts
Chilled Buckwheat Noodles
Fresh Tofu Poached in Soymilk
Thrice Cooked Bacon (Vegan)
Mongolian Long Beans
Wild Pepper Leaves

I had my dSLR camera with me but was too distracted by the good food and conversation (and maybe admittedly still a little chicken to use it while out dining). I did manage to snap a few shots of the table with my iPhone during and after our meal, though.

Visit Mission Chinese Food NY at 154 Orchard Street, between Rivington and Stanton; and online at Read more about Danny in the May 2012 issue of Bon Appetit.

Photography by Alyssa. Photos ©Alyssa Yeager