Ken and I went to visit his family in Chicago a couple of weeks ago but also spent some time in the city to meet up with our friends. On Saturday night of our visit, we drove into the city and met up with his friends at Sunda, a popular pan-Asian restaurant in the city:
I made reservations beforehand that were super early (around 6:30 on a Saturday night). Luckily, Ken’s brother-in-law told me to tweet at the owner of Sunda because he could probably help accommodate our party with a later recommendation. Paul was right because the owner put me in touch with the hostess at Sunda and they moved our reservation to a more reasonable time – 7:30pm. We arrived, left the car with valet, and sat down in the back room, away from the hustle-bustle of the main room and bar. We started off with some pickled vegetables:
Flavorless, but free so we didn’t have to eat them.
I ordered for the table because we were a party of six – everyone was an adventurous eater so we weren’t limited in our choices. For an appetizer, I ordered the tempura rock shrimp:
Everyone raves about this dish – it’s shrimp that is lightly battered with panko crumbs, fried, and served with a sweet honey kewpie mayonnaise and toasted walnuts. The dish is okay, but definitely not worth raving about and it was way too sweet at Sunda.
For our second appetizer, I ordered pork buns and duck buns:
The buns were overpowering – very little meat (in fact, Ken accidentally ate all of the pork in the pork bun we were sharing so I got left with just the bun and the sauce). The bun had too much green onion flavor and lacked originality, especially since those buns are easily available in Chinatown. The duck meat was slightly on the tough and overcooked side but the duck skin was way too chewy (no separation between the duck meat, fat, and skin).
For a drink, I ordered the blushing geisha:
The waitress promised it wasn’t overly sweet but the drink was too sugary for me to finish – it almost tasted as sweet as a wine cooler!
Everyone’s really raved about the next dish – lobster rolls topped with wagyu beef and truffle oil:
The dish was creative but the flavor of the truffle oil added one too many flavors and masked the naturally sweet lobster. I liked the wagyu beef and the lobster (although I always prefer larger chunks of lobster to the small shreds that were in the roll) but overall, it was a pretty good dish.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the hand cut tuna with jalapeño on top of pan fried sushi rice:
And the wagyu beef on top of pan fried sushi rice as well:
The sushi rice had a very nice consistency (almost like dol sot bibimbap) and both the tuna and beef tasted very fresh. The rest of the table didn’t seem crazy about it, but I liked the different textures of the rice with the sushi – something I’ve never had with tuna tartare.
I ordered one more roll (my least favorite of the night because there were too many crunchy panko crumbs) – the number nine:
The roll was gigantic but there were too many flavors and each bite was too large to put in your mouth in one bite (part of the fun of eating sushi!)
For entrees, I ordered the Adobo brasied pork belly:
The pork belly was very tender, broke apart with a fork, and was actually very flavorful, although a tad on the sweet side. It tasted like the two main flavors were brown sugar and soy sauce (it might have been a little too much brown sugar)
The miso bronzed black cod:
Miso glazed black cod is very difficult to mess up (which is why so many pan-Asian restaurants have it as their fish go-to) – it was enjoyable and very buttery.
Our last entree was the shaking beef – beef with a lime dipping sauce:
The beef was a tad overcooked, but overall very good. The lime dipping sauce was a bit on the plain side and even when I doused the beef in the sauce, I got very little lime flavor.
For dessert, we decided to order a couple things so everyone could share – mochi with various dipping sauces:
I thought these would have been a nice final touch (like mignardises) but they were a little expensive and kind of strange for an Asian restaurant – the cookies were all very sweet (although the chocolate chocolate chip cookie was quite good).
The final dessert, the ridiculous, was a carrot cake bomb-like dessert with lots of vanilla ice cream:
Honestly, there wasn’t much carrot cake but there was more than enough vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce:
Probably the most decadent dessert I’ve ever had at an Asian-style restaurant, I would have preferred something a bit lighter to go with after-dinner tea.
I don’t think I’d return to Sunda; the prices were quite high and there must be better food in Chicago for less with a similar atmosphere. It was a really fun dinner (especially since we talked about the next wedding we’re attending…in less than a month!) but I think we could’ve recreated the atmosphere somewhere else.
After dinner, we headed to Paris Club around the corner, which was equally crowded (we only ordered drinks at Paris Club, not dinner) but I’ve heard that Paris Club’s food is slightly better than Sunda’s. I’ll have to return to Chicago to find out for myself!