Thomas Chen honed his knife skills and tended burners at Eleven Madison Park and Commerce, and now he’s putting lessons learned behind those storied lines to work at Tuome, his East Village restaurant where he’s turning out “ingredient-driven refined food with Asian influence in a casual setting,” he says. It’s hard, however, to get a feel for what to expect food-wise from the menu, which is loaded with familiar-looking dishes: There’s a watermelon-and-ricotta salad, for instance, and octopus with fingerlings. There’s even kale, sort of — it’s tucked into a rice dish at the bottom of the menu. But for all the trendy ingredients, what actually hits the table is full of surprises, because Chen has a penchant for giving dishes unusual twists. That watermelon-ricotta salad? Coated in crunchy puffed farro to become a light summer refresher. The fingerlings beside the octopus turn out to be a foamy espuma, added to the plate tableside. And the kale, well, it goes into a banana-leaf pouch with sticky rice and lap cheong, that piquant Chinese sausage. Those twists add extra delight to an expertly executed meal, one that takes the familiar and turns it truly exalted.
Editor’s note: Click here to read Zachary Feldman’s October 15, 2014, review of Tuome.