leave your inhibitions at the door
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.
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
Lemongrass Beef Lollipops – NY Strip wrapped lemongrass, spicy chili glaze
Asian restaurants in Chicago
Prawn Rangoon – prawns with crab, cream cheese and a wonton shell
Where do celebrities hang out in Chicago
From their Sushi menu, Sunda’s Yellowtail Jalapeno – with Japanese salsa, olive oil, ponzu
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.
I need some fitness
Honey-Ginger Braised Beef Shortrib – with Creamed baby bok choy congee and carrots
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