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The Early Word on NYC's Mission Chinese Food

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Angel Pham

Chef Danny Bowien's much-anticipated New York outpost of San Francisco cult favorite Mission Chinese Food opened earlier this week on the Lower East Side. It's no surprise that early diners are already giving plenty of feedback about their experiences. The restaurant, which donates 75 cents from every entree to the Food Bank for New York, sports a full bar and serves its updated Chinese fare from behind a mock take-out counter. Here's a look at what New Yorkers are saying about the food, decor, and service at Mission Chinese Food (spoiler alert, it's HOT):

The Gush-worthy News: LES bloggers Andrew Andrew posted a rave review in video form: "Having been to China ourselves...I can safely say this is the best Chinese food I've had," one says. "The lamb cheek dumplings in red oil were've gotta check it out," says the other. They also recommend the thrice-cooked bacon and the Szechuan pickled vegetables. [Andrew Andrew]

The Come Prepared News: i8 NYC also had a positive experience, but has a few warnings: "Take heed to the two flames on the menu. They are not there just for show. That denotes your tongue will be burning and you will be reaching for your milk." Still, "the food is comforting and cooked with love. When you are eating you feel like your friend’s Chinese mom cooked for you." [i8 NYC]

The Bring Your Appetite News: One Yelper has a word about the portion sizes: "The small plates come out quite quickly as they are pre-made, and the big plates are giant. Way too much food for two people, I suggest trying to share a few things or bring more friends. Great staff and great space." [Yelp]

The Underwhelmed News: Another Yelp review, while mostly positive, is less than enthusiastic when it comes to the food: "Service was quick. Staff was very accomodating. Music was bumpin. Prices are affordable. However ... the food was somewhat of a let down. There were great ideas on the menu but the spice levels were a bit aggressive. Many dishes led to mouth tingling, borderline numbness without compensating with flavor. After a thorough tasting of about seven dishes, I would recommend the Kung Pao pastrami (mild flavor, nice chunks of pastrami, savory veggies), lamb cheek dumplings (great texture and flavor), and the chicken wings (exotic flavor, enough spice, surprising sweetness). Not a fan of white rice with barley ... overall, food did not live up to the immense hype. I appreciate the creativity but I am not dying to dine here again." [Yelp]

The Rave Review: Meanwhile, an Eater Commenter was blown away: "I was here on Sunday, looks like only a few minutes before the photographer showed up. I had the pork jowl, chicken hearts, thrice cooked bacon and the sweet peas. Holy cow was it all good. My buddy got us a reservation and he said it was going to be awesome but I couldn't have imagined it would be like this. Danny is a master at making things uber spicy and complex but not overwhelming (at least for my palate). The service was super friendly and the space was really cool and casual. The thrice cooked bacon was the shining star for me. Be prepared to drink a lot of water and/or beer with your meal." [Eater Comments]

The Good but Spicy News: A Foursquare tipster was won over, but her praise comes with a warning: "Lives up to the hype! Get the bacon and rice cakes and salt cod fried rice. Warning when they say spicy, they mean it!!" While another tipster agrees: "it hurts so good--if you thought you could handle spicy food, this is a new level." [Foursquare]

The Did We Mention It's Spicy? News: And they're talking about the heat factor over in the Twitterverse as well: "Our mouths are numb in a very good way" and “Can't stop eating these beans. But they are so spicy... and making me see weird colors. Argh!” [Twitter]

The Mostly Good News: The folks over at Zagat hosted their first-ever reader review dinner at MCF and three lucky readers got to dine and dish about their meal. Reader Amber K. says: "Insanely spicy! The lamb cheek dumplings were by far the best dish on the menu; a little sweetness, a little spice... just right! I was expecting to love the thrice-cooked bacon because I was thinking it would be something crispy, but it was rather soggy. The tofu dish, which would seem like one of the milder options, was the spiciest, so vegetarians beware!" And: "It's early on and I'm sure this restaurant is still finding its groove, but I'm not sure it met my expectations. The playful vibe seems like a great place to come to when you're on the prowl for late-night eats after drinking, so long as you don't have to wait two hours to get in. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who loved spicy food, and I feel like I'll have to build up a tolerance for heat before I return." [Zagat]
· All Coverage of Mission Chinese Food [~ENY~]
— Claire Nugent and Alison Herman

Mission Chinese Food

154 Orchard St., New York, NY