It was sort of weird, yet incredibly awesome, standing in the James Beard House in NYC on Nov. 6, an hour before the “Along the Silk Road” dinner with Sunda chef Rodelio Aglibot and Rockit chef James Gottwald was about to begin. The two Chicago chefs were huddling with their staff in the tiny semi-open kitchen, well, open in that you need to walk through the thing to get from the lobby area to reception/dining area in the surprisingly low-key culinary temple that resides in a legendary brownstone. The staff (French Culinary Institute students) was prepping for the night, torching poached shrimp in egg sauce, skewering beef with lemon grass for juicy meat lollipops, getting the sushi course ready, and generally preparing to roll out a Sunda-inspired feast to the night’s guests. It wasn’t Aglibot’s first time at the house, he talked about his mom crying hysterically at a previous dinner, where he was also introduced by Jacques Pépin. But I think everyone wanted to collectively cry at the night’s heavenly first bite of roasted duck hash on a daikon cake with unagi-glazed crispy duck skin and egg yolk tartare. A part of me was hoping for an adaptation of Sunda’s famous love-it-or-hate it watermelon unagi maki (I love, obv), but the hash served as a perfectly unctuous start with the similar flavor of sweet unagi. Next up was also worthy of a few tears of happiness; pork belly with big eye tuna served with mango, garlic vinaigrette and sweet chili sauce. It reminded me of the ahi tuna, mango and pork appetizer I love at Sunda, but this was a deliciously deconstructed version. Next came the sushi. A generous array of great white nigiri with shaved truffle, the earth and ocean roll; lobster maki, wagyu beef tartare and truffled foie aïoli, and a miso-marinated black cod with pickled ginger. There wasn’t a bamboo school of fish swimming along the ceiling, but we enjoyed the Sunda-approved sushi rolls all the same. An avocado mousse palate cleanser with frozen lychee and berries got us ready for Midwest honey and ginger braised beef long ribs with with lobster scented arroz caldo. Tender, sweet and fragrant, it represented Aglibot’s mastery with a hunk of meat, and perfectly matched a Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir ’07 from Russian River Valley. And dessert..camparado; a Filipino chocolate rice pudding with preserved young coconut, toasted rice flakes and crispy strips of lap cheong, yes, sweet and spicy pork. In rice pudding. Not a taste for everyone, but I loved it and am still purposing a permanent move onto the Sunda menu. The Boo-dah’s night cap cocktail with Hennessey Black and marmalade was the perfect ending to a night represented by two of Chicago’s finest. I wanted more of my food photos to turn out, I really did, but the dimly lit room just wasn’t conducive. So I apologize, but a few to enjoy from a night to remember.