Raves for Mission Chinese Food East

San Francisco's Mission Chinese Food—a Chowhound favorite for its idiosyncratic take on Sichuan cooking—has gone bicoastal, along with major buzz. After checking out its month-old Lower East Side outpost, _emilie_ calls the hype "100% deserved."

Kung pao pastrami, a hit on the West Coast, "took me right to Texas BBQ brisket, only with Sichuan-style heat," she says. "It's a dish that sounds like a fusion joke, but it's absolutely a must-have." Chef Danny Bowien's (pictured at left) spin on mapo tofu, another signature dish, is porky, delicious, and complex; sgordon praises the texture of the sauce, "like a spicy Chinese bolognese." Thrice-cooked bacon, a fiery and filling dish with rice cakes, bean-curd skin, bitter melon, and black beans, is another winner. "Good lord, was this good," says kathryn. "I loved how the rice cakes soaked up the fatty and smoky flavors of the bacon." ChiefHDB singles out the Mouth Watering Chicken, made with what appears to be sous-vide chicken roulade, perfectly cooked dark meat, and chicken hearts, topped with chile oil and sesame seeds. "Awesome. Absolutely get this dish," he advises.

To counter the ma la numbing spiciness of much of the menu, hounds recommend smashed cucumbers in garlic sauce; cold tea-smoked eel (with pulled pork trotter, Chinese celery, and crisp fish skin); and savory egg custard, made with sea urchin in San Francisco, but in New York with scallop. Bowien has been in the house to oversee the opening. "He seemed glued to a flaming wok for most of the night," kathryn reports. "Just watching him work was a treat."

Mission Chinese Food [Lower East Side]
154 Orchard Street (between Rivington and Stanton streets), Manhattan
212-529-8800

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Photograph of Danny Bowien by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com