The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Chicago Eats – Sunda

Right around this time last year, The Sicilian wrote a post on her dinner at Sunda in Chicago.   I’ve always wanted to go there, especially after years of friends raving about how great it is and how they saw Tom Hanks or some other celeb.

In her post, she was pretty critical about the mark-ups in the wine prices at the restaurant.


(Hold on… Can we get a grammar expert to chime in here?  Is “mark-ups” the right term or is it “marks-up”?  See, when you go to Burger King and you want two of the smaller versions of The Whopper, you need to ask for “two Whoppers, Junior” not “two Whopper Juniors.”  Head spinning from that revelation?)


Anyway, The Sicilian didn’t much care for how the restaurant charged $52 for a bottle for which she normally pays $10.  It’s a fair point – restaurants do mark-up bottles, but usually not that much.  But I agree with the comment made by this site’s other contributor – Sir Mix-a-Lotta-Ingredients:

Y’all tripping too much about wine prices. Just pay for da shiznit and enjoy your dinner. You’re spending a couple stacks on dinner and your quibbling over how you paid $5 too much?


He’s right.  A dinner for two at  many other fine dining places in Chicago can easily reach $200.  So an extra $15 shouldn’t be that painful, right?  And let’s not forget what you will probably pay for parking.

chi parkingtravel

The Sicilian did like the food there, describing it as “good to great” and I would whole-heartedly agree.  However, she did describe it as “a moderately more upscale P.F. Chang’s.”  Now that’s an insult.  Comparing the two is like comparing hockey and baseball.  Except I like Sunda.  I don’t like either hockey and baseball.

As far as chains go, you can do a lot of worse than Chang’s. It’s good Chinese food that’s way better than Panda Express and most mom-and-pop (or would that be muqin-and-fuqin?) restaurants.  But at the end of the day Chang’s is still just Chinese and still just a chain.  National chains all have to be the same and they all have to appeal to the masses.  So there’s not a whole lot of creativity or ability to adapt to local tastes and changing times.

Sunda is different.  It’s considered New Asian cuisine that features dishes from China and all over southeast Asia.  But I don’t consider it fusion – they aren’t necessarily blending techniques or flavors to create something new.  Instead, they are updating and elevating traditional dishes.  So, for example, there’s a classic Filipino dish called Crispy Pata which is a deep-fried pork trotter served with a simple soy and vinegar sauce.  At Sunda, it becomes a confit pork shank with garlic and foie gras scented gravy.  Instead of regular pot stickers filled with ground pork or shrimp, Sunda’s has braised oxtail, caramelized onion jus, and white wasabi cream.

What We Ate

There were thirteen of us and most everyone ordered different items.  That means crazy Uncle John the Blogger was walking around with his camera and fork.  Check out their site for their full menu.

Pig Sticks – Braised pork belly, sweet soy, Asian slaw

Sunda 2

fine dining

Oxtail Potsticker

Sunda dumpling


Lemongrass Beef Lollipops – NY Strip wrapped lemongrass, spicy chili glaze

Sunda 4

Asian restaurants in Chicago

Prawn Rangoon – prawns with crab, cream cheese and a wonton shell

Sunda prawns

Where do celebrities hang out  in Chicago

From their Sushi menu, Sunda’s Yellowtail Jalapeno – with Japanese salsa, olive oil, ponzu

Sunda 5

Mike Ditka ate here

7 Spice Fried Chicken – Which prompted my nephew to point out that The Colonel makes like Spinal tap and uses ELEVEN herbs and spices.

Sunda 10


Crispy Pata

Sunda 12

I need some fitness

Honey-Ginger Braised Beef Shortrib – with Creamed baby bok choy congee and carrots

Sunda 13


Three of the best items were ones that I couldn’t get to in time for a picture.  They were absolutely delicious and are highly recommended

– Crispy Brussels sprouts salad with chilis, fried shallots, nuoc cham, and minced shrimp.  This was the silent assassin – the one dish that you really don’t expect to much from but ends up putting you on the floor with how good it is.

– Miso Bronzed Black Cod with red curry and glazed eggplant

– Adobo Braised Pork Belly – Their take on the Filipino classic.  Normally, we frown on reinterpretations like this, but it was killer.  Even my mom, the traditionalist she is, loved it.


What We Drank

Appropriately, they have an extensive wine and cocktail list as well.  There were so many of those flying around that I barely remember what we drank, but there were two that stood out.  First was the Peared Sake – Grey Goose la Poire, sparkling sake, pineapple juice, ginger syrup, and cinnamon rum.  The other was the Grass Tiger – Jalapeno-infused Ransom Old Tom gin, Gosling’s ginger beer, fresh mint, lemongrass simple syrup, fresh lime, and orange juice.  Yeah, exactly…

love to drink

The Bottom Line

We ate a ton of food and drank a lot, as well.  As there were thirteen of us, I was fully expecting our bill to be around $2K.  (No, we don’t usually eat like this.  This was our family Christmas dinner.)  Surprisingly, the bill came in under $1K.  I would think that dinner for two with drinks and tip would be around $150.  For great food like this at one of the best restaurants in Chicago, that’s not bad at all…


110 W. Illinois

Chicago, IL 60654



dining guide
Sunda on Urbanspoon

About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

11 comments on “Chicago Eats – Sunda

  1. Yinzerella
    March 21, 2013

    It all looks so good. And seeing that reminds me that I want to try to make oxtail soup.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 21, 2013

      What kind if oxtail soup? There’s a Filipino one that’s the tits. Its a thick stew with peanut sauce. Not sure I j have recipe posted, if not I think I know what’s for dinner one night next week

  2. musingsoftheamusingmuse
    March 21, 2013

    Honestly, I loved the reference to Spinal Tap. Nicely done. The restaurant sounds amazing and if my schedule allows in July when I’m at the BlogHer convention, I may have to talk my partner in crime into going.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 21, 2013

      It’s excellent, but if you’re willing to get out into the neighborhoods and away from downtown area, there are soem awesome places out there… Check out my Chicago section for some ideas. HIghly recommend Longman & Eagle.

      I’ll probably be in Chicago in July, maybe I should go to it…. Oh wait, it says Blog HER. Nevermind

  3. a2sicilian
    March 21, 2013

    Actually I ate there a second time with Boom Boom while we were both there on business trips last year, and I take back my P.F. Changs comment. You’re right; it is way way better. (Especially since P.F. Changs has gone so downhill in past few years; I won’t eat there again.)

    Anyway, if you want to get really, really hungry, become a fan of the Sunda Facebook page. The photos are gorgeous, the food breathtaking. I’ve been pining for Sunda sushi for a long time now. It is more japanese/american fusion, but so wonderful. Want to go back!!!

  4. a2sicilian
    March 21, 2013

    And I’m sorry, but $52 for a $10 retail bottle is NOT acceptable.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 21, 2013

      I wouldn’t order a $10 retail bottle at any price. 😉 I actually wouldn’t do wine unless you’re getting the lamb or steak. The only wines I like with Asian food are Gewurz or Riesling, especially with Thai spices. With sushi you have some options. But those cocktails are fantastic, you’ll forget about wanting wine.

      And – Ms. Legit Journalist – what’s the word on that grammar question? Is it mark-ups or marks-up?

  5. serialeclectic
    March 25, 2013

    Adding Sunda to my personal hit list, looks delicious! BTW, what’s your favorite passable Chinese here in the A2 area? I’ve tried Great Lakes but that’s about it…

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 25, 2013

      Yeah, Great Lakes is best I’ve had. Recall gourmet garden on Stadium was decent. But Every time we go to Great Lakes, 99% of other diners are Chinese. Good seafood there.

  6. Pingback: Summer Farewells | Rachel's Table

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This entry was posted on March 20, 2013 by in Dining, The Chi, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .
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