Tag Archives: new york city

James Beard Dinner-Sunda in NYC

Torching poached lobster with egg sauce


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.

Beef lollipops on lemongrass

Rodelio Aglibot and James Gottwald

Sushi course

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More Momofuku

Momofuku steamed pork buns

I mean, really. Did you think I would just casually drop Momofuku Ssäm in a previous post and not proceed to put up more mouth-watering shots from the meal? Out of three days in NYC, I managed to hit up 3 of the 4 Momo eating empires, including Ssäm and Noodle Bar (I’ll save Ko for another time if I’m lucky). We actually ended up at Ssäm first, thinking it was Noodle Bar, “a common mistake,” our server told us as we squeezed our way up to the packed communal dining table. Common, yet delicious as we proceeded to start with the heavenly creation that is the steamed pork buns. The soft spongy buns serve as the perfect grip for a generous, juicy chunk of pork belly, slather of tangy hoisin sauce, squirt of fiery hot sauce, crispy cucumbers and scallions. It’s chef David Chang’s signature dish, and so totally amazing, I knew I had a new craving on my hands; one that would continue to hit me throughout the impending Chicago winter. But we still had to focus at Ssäm, as there was melt-in-your-mouth cured hamachi with horseradish and edamame purée to try (divine), sides like fried brussels sprouts with fish sauce vinaigrette, mint and crispy puffed rice, and grilled branzini, a flavorful firm white fish entrée served with delicious smoked eel, zucchini and a marjoram pistou.

Hamachi appetizer


Grilled branzini


Fried brussels sprouts


For dessert (yes, we had dessert even after our appetizer of Milk Bar cookies), the Thai Iced Parfait was too intriguing to pass up. Of course, it was totally unexpected; a quenelle of perfectly tart lemon mascarpone nestled up to Thai iced tea custard in a long, rectangular shape. A pile of crunchy granules of almond tea held them together on the plate. Pretty. Delicious. Gone in 60 seconds.

Thai Iced Tea parfait


You’d think after all this, I woulda had enough Momo, but I’m not sure that’s entirely possible. I had a two-hour window my last night, and made a bee line to Momofuku Noodle bar to grab a relatively fast seat at the communal dining table. The place was packed, the servers worked the place like masters, and just like Ssäm and Milk Bar, a crowd of hungry diners huddled outside. Everything on the menu looked ridiculous (chilled spicy noodles with Szechuan spiced sausage, smoked chicken wings with pickled chile, sliced fluke with apple purée), but I knew I had to have a repeat performance of the famous pork buns, and without a doubt, a steaming, heaping, soul-soothing bowl of the Momofuku Ramen I heard so much about. I definitely may have dorkily clapped a few times when the massive bowl of pork belly, pork shoulder, bamboo shoots, scallions and a poached egg appeared. I’ve made the claim before that everything is better with the addition of an egg (or avocado), and when it’s broken up inside the hot, salty, pork bone-bacon-shiitake mushroom-flavorful broth and swirled amid slices of daikon, clusters of green onion and soft, silky ramen noodles that defy all memories of dry crunchy blocks of wavy noodles that broke into chunks as they were carelessly stacked around my college dorm room, this statement rings more than true. Wait, let me take that back. Everything is better with pork belly, and pork shoulder, their meaty, juicy, tenderness soaks throughout the broth, and you don’t know whether to slurp them down, or let them spread their flavorful love around the bowl. So you take a nibble, stir, gather a few slurps from the over-sized soup spoon, a few luscious grasps of noodles with your chopsticks and repeat, hopefully, every time you’re back in New York. Momofuku Noodle Bar 171 First, Avenue, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, 207 2nd Ave.

Momofuku Ramen

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