“A lot of chefs now are branching out and doing their own thing and to find that soul, they reach back to the memories from their heritage. I’m not changing the game with technique. For me to find that authentic spirit and originality, I went to my own culture.”
- Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
Fung Tu is at the south end of Orchard Street, where the Lower East Side bumps into Chinatown. It’s a restaurant that represents these crossroads, a melding of American fine dining and Chinese street food; of French-technique trained chefs carving their own modern pathways.
Chef Jonathan Wu, formerly of Per Se, partnered with chef John Wells, of Mas Farmhouse, sommelier Jason Wagner of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and restaurateur Wilson Tang, owner of Nom Wah Tea parlor, to open up this Modern American-Chinese restaurant. “The cuisine is based on the memory of the foods I ate growing up and inspired by my relatives and the stories that they had about foods growing up,” explains Chinese-American Bronx-born chef Wu. “For example, the smoked and fried dates with duck is inspired by a Shanghai native relative who was a little boy before the Cultural Revolution. He told us about his favorite street foods as a child, which were Chinese black dates that were smoked and I think he was referring to jujube. Walking around Chinatown I have seen black dates that are smoked and stuffed with red bean paste, coated in an egg wash and then fried. It just sounded so fascinating and so unique.”
Georgia native chef John Wells adds a Southern spin with dishes like fried chicken and a steamed bun with Chinese sausage gravy. “The buns are a play on biscuits and gravy, but my grandmother would use a country sausage rather than the Chinese sausage.”
One thing this team does not neglect are the cocktails, teas and the wine list. Sommelier Jason Wagner met Jonathan Wu when they were taking a wine class together at American Sommelier Association. Wagner’s goal is to convert people’s perceptions of what pairs well with Chinese food. “We wanted to base the palate of the wine list on Shaoxing rice wine, which is what Chinese people will often drink with food. It has saline, nutty, stone fruit characteristics.”
If you just want to pop in for a drink and snacks, Wagner does special pairings at the bar. “We have things like Sweetbreads Manchuri with Tiger beer and the shrimp paste with raw bok choy and dry sherry. The inspiration for this pairing came when Ferran Adrià dined at Fung Tu. He kept asking for more and more, he was going crazy for it. This dish really plays with the Spanish palate.”
Don’t expect Chinatown’s greatest hits on the Fung Tu menu, Wagner says they want to take you on a culinary ride. “We are a restaurant where there is not going to be a whole lot of stuff that is very recognizable to you. But it is still authentic. This is how a lot of Chinese people eat at home.”
Just like their restaurant, the team’s recommendations are interesting and eclectic. Download the Find. Eat. Drink. iPhone app to see where they eat and drink in New York, Brooklyn and Queens.
22 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002 | T: 212.219.8785 | fungtu.com
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