Although Chung Chow, Gerald San Jose and Jin Ahn — the owners of the East Village restaurant Noreetuh (128 First Avenue; 646-892-3050) are new to the restaurateur game, they’ve created a menu that successfully tailors Hawaiian traditions to a New York palate. “Some items are more traditional in flavor and profile, but I try to use the flavors that I grew up with and the dishes I know, and work around that and make it my own, more New York friendly,” Chow tells the Voice.
Of the three owners, Chow is the only one from Hawaii. Before opening Noreetuh, the trio toyed with a few concepts, including Asian-inspired food, but they decided to go with Hawaiian fare, in part because of Chow’s background, but also because Hawaiian cuisine encompasses so many cultures, including Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese. “The mix is so diverse that we just decided to do Hawaiian because obviously it represents what we want to do,” says Chow of the four-month-old restaurant, where he is also the head chef.
The restaurant’s hearts of palm ($14) dish includes beets, crispy shallots, cilantro and smoked tofu. Heart of palm — the edible bud of certain types of palm trees — are common fare in Hawaii, especially on the Big Island. While the hearts of palm themselves don’t have a powerful taste, the accompanying tapenade made with them is citrusy and tart. The sweet beets in the salad contrast with the crunchy shallots, and the hazy smokiness of the tofu conveys a creamy, yogurt-like texture.
Noreetuh’s spicy gobo dish ($5) highlights the root vegetable, which is largely found in East Asian countries, like Japan, Taiwan and Korea, but also found in Brazil and Portugal. Also included in the dish are mushrooms, bellflower roots and sesame. The gobo, mushrooms and bellflower roots are julienned; though the sesame seeds first provide a nutty overture, the dish slowly becomes spicier.
The crispy mushrooms ($8) are served with a sweet miso dressing that almost tastes like an aioli. The mushrooms themselves are juicy, and become even juicier after being fried.
The chow noodles ($17) are a hearty ending to the entire meal and they originate from chef Chow’s family; “The chow noodles are actually something that I grew up with; something my family made for [our noodle making] business that we owned in Hawaii. That was one of the recipes that I took from them and tried to incorporate into our restaurant. So I named it chow noodles for my family,” says Chow. The dish features spiced tofu (firmer than the tofu in the hearts of palm dish), summer squash, jalapeño, snap peas and cilantro. The snap peas provide a crunch, the squash adds a sugariness and the noodles are impeccably al dente.