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2012 To get to the dining room of Mission Chinese, you thread your way through crowds of people, past a keg of beer and down an unglamorous hallway. Up a few stairs and suddenly you’re in a fantastically festive low-lit dining room decorated with a gigantic paper dragon and chairs suspended from the ceiling. Hyper-creative chef Danny Bowien serves some of the most exciting, fiery dishes in Manhattan, making a super-chunky pork sauce that’s packed with Sichuan peppercorns for his silken ma po tofu, and preparing kung pao pastrami with house-brined meat. But not everything is sweat-inducingly hot: Charred, fatty, cumin-roasted lamb breast is served with candy-sweet dates. missionchinesefood.com.