When we last saw chef Jonathan Wu, he was crossing northern Chinese breakfast with seasonal American produce, like savory rice pancakes filled with egg, congee crossed with grits, and steamed bao with kabocha squash. Now he's teamed up with Wilson Tang, the young restaurateur who breathed new life into America's oldest dim sum parlor. Their new venture is called Fung Tu,* one of the southernmost outposts of Orchard Street's restaurant row.
* We imagine they would have had legal issues with Wu Tang.
We paid a visit on the restaurant's second day in business to check out the cocktails ($12, agreeable if not stunning, but a Negroni spiked with Suze instead of Campari was delightful) and the menu's expansive (and hardly cheap) list of small plates. One that caught our eye: a take on a tostada ($15) with delicately smoked chicken, a flurry of cilantro and cashews, and strips of pressed, marinated tofu all on a fermented broad bean purée spread over a crisp cake of masa. It's a tasty thing, and a brainy approach that works, even if we didn't fight over the last pieces.
There's also some hammy Smoked Mussels with scallion oil ($6) and duck-stuffed Smoked and Fried Dates ($7) we enjoyed as a rich sweet and savory bar snack. But a $14 plate of "Chinese" sashimi with a couple fresh snow pea shoots—something so simple and unseasoned we found it forgettable. No matter, that leaves more room for other dishes we're curious about, like broad bean curd terrines and rice crepes stuffed with braised beef and watercress.
We're reserving judgment until the restaurant builds up its sea legs, but the menu has some intriguing interpretations of Chinese food to offer, way more delicate than Mission Chinese and more steeped in traditional Chinese ingredients than RedFarm. The question is whether these subtle, contemplative takes on Chinese cooking will leap off the plate or just tickle our fancy.