So many options in New York, so many decisions to make—especially when it comes to that delicate balance of fine dining and ‘Asian influenced’, which can be taken in so many different directions. There are countless restaurants taking on that category right now, all of them serving their take on pork belly, and some sort of deviled egg reinterpretation. Which is to say, it’s an oversaturated marketplace, so to stand out, you must really be doing something great. Not just innovative—because just pushing the envelope doesn’t always equal perfection. But being innovative and true to the roots of the cuisine you are inspired by, that’s the marriage we’re all looking for.
Well, Tuome is one of the few standouts who have the potential to become NYC iconic, they do such a great job perfecting themselves in that niche category. Thomas Chen is the chef/owner of the critically acclaimed East Village restaurant.
Since opening in 2014, Thomas and the restaurant have continued to delight and surprise with his ingredient-driven contemporary American menu that showcases his classic culinary training and Asian influences from his upbringing (he is a first generation Chinese American).
Thomas worked for 4 unfulfilling years as an accountant before giving it all up to follow his true passion, cooking.
After attending culinary school, he spent years working his way up in the kitchen at fine dining institution Eleven Madison Park and spent time at Commerce learning the ins and outs of running a casual neighborhood favorite.
The Tuome dining space itself is refreshing in that it doesn’t strive to be something it’s not, and therefore is immediately relaxing and inviting. There’s no forcefulness to the décor, no attempt to be uber hip, just a natural rustic character showcasing reclaimed materials with modern updates.
The dining room features a wall fashioned with 1920s wool spools originally from Germany and once used in a knitting factory in Pennsylvania. A two-tone geometric design of stained wood adorns the cherry oak bar, which is lined with vintage oak and metal stools from a university science lab. A custom-hanging lamp forged of iron and steel lights up the bar. Reclaimed 1890s light fixtures from a Philadelphia milk factory illuminate the restaurant’s dark and golden browns.
But enough about the décor— the food is shockingly excellent, and we didn’t find single dud among the dishes. The new Dim Sum additions are particularly fun—the selection changes weekly and include dishes like Duck Pho Soup Dumplings; Oxtail Croquettes with Chipotle Aoili, Tempura Shrimp with caviar and creme fraiche; Housemade beef pastrami, cabbage aoili and dill; and Uni Shu Mai.
But the real stand out here is the “pig out”. Technically for two, but shareable between three or even four if you’ve been feasting all night, it’s a fantastic dish. At either end of a long slate pointed toward both diners is a generous bowl of thick homemade noodles with an updated Chinese peanut sauce. Arranged along the middle of the plank are two rows of pork belly paving stones, burnished-skin-side up, with an arugula and persimmon salad running in parallel, a frame to your piece of edible art. The entrée is a participatory delight, and one that will leave you satisfied yet wanting more. The snow crab with delicate noodles, squash, and dashi butter was also a favorite—the pasta was so fresh and delicately done, it was the real standout ingredient of all the dishes.
Don’t leave without a few cocktails—the ‘Fire in the Sky’ is a sake, thai chili and yuzu concoction that’s just the right sort of spicy and sweet. Really, you could pick dishes and drinks at random off the menu and be not only satisfied, but wowed as well. Take yourself out for a real gastronomic adventure—it’ll be one of those meals you can’t stop thinking about for weeks and months to come.