Today Pete Wells pays a visit to the hottest restaurant on East Broadway, Mission Chinese Food. He's reviewed it before, back when Danny Bowien was new to New York, and Mission Chinese was a scrappy basement level restaurant that had a heavy hand with the chiles. Back then he gave it two stars, so what does he think now that it's in a bigger space with a longer menu and Angela Dimayuga playing a leading role as executive chef?
Scorched-tongue cooking has become a minor motif in Mr. Bowien and Ms. Dimayuga's menu...Splashing around in a gentle, aromatic pool of chamomile, almond milk and saffron, the steamed Napa cabbage has more in common with a chai latte than with Mr. Bowien's pork-drenched mapo tofu. There is a startlingly well-calibrated, nori-sprinkled salad of red cabbage in a Caesar-esque vinaigrette of soy, miso, sesame and anchovy.
The old hits are still hits, but Wells is happy with this grown-up new menu. There are some bumps in service, and Wells would rather skip the big bucks showstoppers like the smoked prime rib or the duck baked in clay, but Mission Chinese keeps its two stars.