After receiving a glowing two star review from the New York Times in May, Orchard Street Chinese restaurant Fung Tu was flying high. Diners were flocking to sample chef Jonathan Wu’s original take on homestyle Chinese classics. But then the young restaurant was dealt a setback when gas service in its building was abruptly shut off the second week of July. More than a month later, service has not been restored and the kitchen staff is doing the best it can with butane burners. Needless to say, frustration is setting in.
According to the Department of Buildings’ website, Con Edison reported on July 9 that a plumber was “performing unauthorized work, including shutting and turning on gas service.” There were also complaints on that same day about “work without a permit.” Today a DOB spokesperson told us an inspector determined “no violation was warranted” regarding the alleged “unauthorized work.” While gas service has remained off, a permit to install a new gas line to a pizza oven in the space next door to Fung Tu was approved on July 13. A Con Ed spokesperson said the utility must inspect the work when it is completed. Allan Drury said they’ll also be performing an “integrity test” in which entails blasting “gas through the piping to make sure there are no leaks and that everything is safe.”
That new line is going to a pizza place being opened at 22 Orchard St. by Scarr Pimentel. Contacted this afternoon, he said it’s his understanding the contractor working for the building owner has not yet completed the project. The owner, listed in public records as Zhi Heng Chen, hung up when contacted by The Lo-Down, saying he does not speak English.
Jonathan Wu and another Fung Tu partner, Jason Wagner, talked with us about their predicament on Friday. They understand and appreciate the city’s safety precautions, especially in the aftermath of the devastating 2nd Avenue explosion. And they’ve made the best of a difficult situation. Business has been relatively brisk in spite of a limited menu that they started offering earlier this month.
At the same time, however, the restaurant is still in a very tough spot. It was closed for a full week while the chefs regrouped and cobbled together a short-term plan. Staff was compensated for that time period. Some of the top-selling dishes have been pulled from the menu — and Fung Tu is unable to offer its popular tasting menu and accompanying wine pairing.
Now the restaurant is determined to be back up to full speed by the time the fall rush begins in about three weeks. The other day, Fung Tu sought out the help of the Lower East Side BID, which has been helping to move the process along with city agencies. The restaurant is also working with the Department of Small Business Services.
The gas outage has also impacted the residential tenants at 22 Orchard, who haven’t been able to use their stoves in weeks.