Fung Tu, the new creative Chinese spot at 22 Orchard St., officially opened last week. Mitch Weinstein’s already checked it out, and has some early thoughts.
Significant Eater and I were battling through jet lag over the weekend… I mean, going to sleep at 9 p.m. and waking at 4 a.m. is fairly annoying, no? And our meal times were a bit screwed up as well, but it apparently worked to our advantage Saturday night because I remembered reading that Fung Tu had just opened (ahead of schedule! right around the corner!) a few nights prior. So, after a quick Negroni at home, we bolted out the door and arrived as the second paying customers of the night at tiny little Fung Tu, on the next-to-lowest block of Orchard Street.
Fung Tu bills its food as “creative Chinese-American” (oy) and it’s a venture between partners Wilson Tang (of Nom Wah fame – one of our favorite dim sum parlors, btw), Jonathan Wu (Per Se), John Wells (Mas Farmhouse) and Jason Wagner (L’Atelier, plus stuff in Chicago). I think the chefs are Jon and John, because I believe we were being served our wine/cocktails by Jason, but with all these names, I’m a bit confused (remember, jet lag).
(After being seated), we ordered cocktails to start, which considering we (okay, me) told them exactly how I wanted them, came out great (I imagine I’m pretty annoying to some of these restaurant peeps, but I’m always really nice about it). The menu is divided into – well – you know, snacks, small plates (hot & cold), large plates, sides and sweets, and we started by ordering a couple of “snacks.”
At the top is “Smoked & Fried Dates Stuffed with Duck,” and these were delicioso. Four to an order, perfectly fried and filled with shredded duck — what could be bad? Below is another fine combo, “Peanuts, Dill, and Chinese Beef Jerky” which actually tastes a lot better than it sounds, and is perfect cocktail food. Of course there are those who will argue about Chinese beef “jerky” – a well-known friend of mine claims it’s not really jerky and I sorta believe him – but it’s good, and it’s sourced locally, so…
For our first courses, we enjoyed the “Smoked Chicken and Cilantro Salad with Masa Scallion Pancake and Cashews.” I really liked the use of cilantro in this, as well as the tofu strips – and the chicken was perfectly moist, a big plus in my book. Our other starter was the “Jian Bing Crepe Rolls Stuffed with Braised Beef, Pickled Cucumbers and Watercress.” Unexpectedly, as I’m sorta used to soft, gummy crepes in Chinatown (and love them), this was crispy on the outside, easily cut into portions, and the pickled cucumbers add a great jolt of flavor.
We paired a couple of glasses of wine with our food – I had a Koehler Ruprecht Riesling (I think Rieslings go great with pan-ish, Asian-ish, fusion-ish, Chinese-ish food) and Sig Eater had a fine Close des Trielles “Chenin Méchant,” which also went well with our food choices. There are well over a dozen wines by the glass offered, none of which duplicate what’s offered by the bottle. There are a couple of sherries, a couple of sakes, and 6 or 7 beers on the nicely put together (OK – curated) list. The by the bottle list is short (I count 22 bottles), and if you’re looking for an eminently drinkable $30 a bottle of wine, stop – you won’t find one here, as the lowest-priced white is $44…still reasonable, in my opinion.
For a main course, Sig Eater and I decided to go healthy, and instead of the dumpling knots (she wanted) or the fried pork chops (I wanted) we chose the “Whole Steamed Fish with Fennel, Tangerine Peel, Chili, and Fermented Black Beans (FOR TWO).”
Another local product, this delicious, super-fresh fish was a sea bream caught off Long Island, and since we’re trying to avoid bad fish (hello farmed shrimp & salmon), perfect for us. And perfect it was – partially boned, juicy and moist – we ate it right down to its eyeball sockets. A side of rice and a side of sauteed greens, smothered in umami, completed this course.
And since we couldn’t leave without having dessert, the “Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ganache Sesame Balls” were just right – almost like a Chinese-American Reeses’ Cup – they hit the spot of bitter sweetness we were looking for.
So – what will a meal like this run you? This isn’t Nom Wah. And this isn’t Chinatown, Jake – it’s the lower east side, where the likes of Skal and Fat Radish are right across the street or around the corner. Our bill – which included three glasses of wine and two cocktails was $155 before tip – not cheap, but really right in the wheelhouse for any place serving food like this. The service was exemplary too. And we’ll be back for sure – those fried pork chops
You can read more from Mitch Weinstein about food on the Lower East Side and elsewhere at Tasty Travails.