Danny Bowien has done it again: At his hot new Mission Cantina on the Lower East Side, he practically waves you in from the open kitchen and dares you to change all of your preconceived notions of what any style of cooking (in this case, Mexican) has to be.
Grilled spring onions | Zach Swemle with the chicken
Let's throw out any hang-ups or ideas around the word "authenticity," and instead let's focus on how damn tasty it is to pair a platter of thick, sweet grilled spring onions with butter and crisp toasted sheets of nori ($6), and to smoke potatoes and serve them with yogurt, avocado and a scattering of dill ($7). Or how it's a wonder that a big bowl of guacamole and puffy, crunchy shrimp chips ($8) never met up before.
Pickles | Taco delight | Fresh Oaxaca cheese | Taco al pastor
Sure, there are tacos on the menu here too. A few combinations are expected, like the rotisserie pork belly al pastor with pineapple ($4.50), but choices like crispy beef tripe ($4), or chicken liver with creamed white beans ($5) do their best to fake left, then right to keep your taste buds jumping.
Chile lights | Carnitas taco | The menu
In what's already turning into something of a house specialty (we saw it on almost every table the night we visited), Bowien poaches the essence of a dish his wife makes, a soothing Korean saemgyetang chicken (chicken stuffed with ginseng, quinoa, jujube dates and chestnuts; see the recipe) and transfers it on to a whole rotisserie chicken grilled and stuffed with rice, chorizo and pecans ($35).
Served with tortillas (the easier for tearing into the chicken with), red onions and salsa, it's a mash-up that's a little bit Mexican, a touch Southern, a bit homey and wholly Danny Bowien.
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