This past Tuesday, Danny Bowien's much anticipated New York outpost of the hugely popular Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco finally opened its doors in the Lower East Side, with eager New Yorkers lining up (while enjoying complimentary beer from a tapped keg) to get a taste of the West Coast favorite.
In the midst of all the opening mayhem, which included a visit from famed chef Daniel Boulud, who dropped by opening night to make a French omelet, we caught up with Bowien to find out where he's been hanging, what tunes he's been singing, and get the info on his budding friendship with Aziz Ansari. Bowien, who recently ditched the coffee habit and has been hitting up the gym, talked to HuffPost about the big move:
I just love New York. It's my favorite city, aside from Paris and Tokyo. But to live in New York is my favorite. The drive here is unbeatable.
Why did you decide to open in the Lower East Side, as opposed to Brooklyn as people may have guessed?
Well that's why we did that. We wanted to go against what everyone expected, which was to open in Brooklyn, and we want to reach out to a wide demographic, not just young people. If you come to our restaurant in San Francisco, there is always a big mix in our patrons from older Chinese families, to young children, to people who may have seen us from the Anthony Bourdain show.
But we are actually going to open in Williamsburg next year. That and Oklahoma City, where I'm from.
Since arriving in New York, what have you been doing on your days off?
My time in New York has really been focused on creating a strong bond with my kitchen. One of the things I'm most proud of is the fact we haven't lost any of our San Francisco cooks in two years, and that's big for the food industry because it's so transient. So here in New York, I've been making an effort to make sure no one is working crazy hours, and spending a lot of time with them. I really want to work to improve the quality of life for my cooks.
Favorite hangouts for you and the staff to take a load off?
In the neighborhood, We've been going to Sammy's Roumanian Steak House. It's this great little place where you can get a big bottle of frozen vodka. We also spend a lot of time with the kids from Momofuku Milk Bar; I'm good friends with the pastry chef there. I also love Roberta's. We've also been doing a ton of karaoke.
Go-to karaoke songs?
I like Meatloaf, "I'd Do Anything For Love." My wife and I do a lot of duets, so we sing a lot of Fleetwood Mac. We also sing a lot of Avril Lavigne.
Have you ever been stop-and-frisked?
Not yet, but our chef du cuisine in San Francisco was hanging after work one night and got frisked for a pocket knife. He got in a lot of trouble. I never have any encounters with cops really, hopefully.
Most memorable New York meal?
One of my most noteworthy meals in the city was actually from a few months ago at Del Posto. I'm friends with the pastry chef there and I was just blown away by the courses.
Have you seen HBO's "Girls?"
Everyone in my kitchen has been talking about that show, but I just haven't had the time. I think one of my cooks or owners is related to someone on it? My wife is probably watching it. I recently picked up "Breaking Bad" and I had to stop because it's so stressful. Work is always causing stress, so when I'm not there, I'm always trying to do what's soothing.
Do you remember your first New York celebrity sighting? Any recent ones that you got excited about?
I don't really get very starstruck, but over the weekend we had a friends and family preview where I got really excited to have Aziz Ansari come by. I was very excited because I could actually hang and talk to him, and he's very cool.
I spotted John Mayer the other day and I tried to convince him to try some Chinese food and sing karaoke with us, specifically to get him to sing his own songs, but didn't happen.
But my first sighting? I think I was around 20-years old when I saw Jerry Seinfeld coming off the subway. Oh, and Madonna, I saw her a while back.
In general, what city do you prefer? San Francisco or New York?
I think the weather is much better in San Francisco. But I think the drive here in New York is really what inspires me at this point in my career. When I'm hanging out on my day off, I love San Francisco because it's so beautiful and relaxed. But I don't know if I want to like retire there. I feel like I'll probably die someday in New York City. But who knows!
Watch Daniel Boulud at Mission Chinese's opening night in New York:
Watch Danny Bowien discuss Mission Chinese in San Francisco below: