River North, Chicago
Sunda was another recommendation from a blogger and I had some expectations based on the fact it was booked on Friday and Saturday until 10:30pm. I went with 4 people (I’d made dinner friends) and we ordered a bunch of dishes including two recommended by the blogger.
The place was loud, dark and emulating a club like vibe with food thrown in. Conversation was definitely stifled in the surrounding ambience.
We ordered the lobster+ wagyu roll (like I couldn’t), shrimp tempura, oxtail potstickers, crispy Brussels sprouts salad, duck fried rice and the crispy rice tuna nigiri.
I tried to get everything at once to get an awesome table spread picture but it just wasn’t happening.
The Brussels sprouts and tuna came out first, the tuna, the rice barely crispy for the could have been better; the tuna was minced and mixed with a spicy sauce and served with a jalapeño, while the flavours were nice I would have preferred a unadulterated piece of tuna, a good but inherently flawed dish, not something you’ll remember.
The sprouts however was the best dish of the night, I mean it is their signature after all. It was first out and not forgotten, the coarsely shredded flash fried sprouts working harmoniously with the sauce, although, without the sauce it was quite plain.
The lobster roll and shrimp tempura came out next; I started with the lobster and wagyu roll, I was instantly disappointed with the roll. While the lobster was very prominent, the wagyu was minimal and fleeting, the supposed truffle aioli on top but anything but as well. A classically crafted hand-roll with the makings of something amazing unfortunately falling short by being too understated and not living up to what a lobster wagyu truffle roll should exhibit.
The Shrimp tempura on the other hand was something special, a thin and crispy outside with a perfectly cooked prawn inside all coated in a sweet, creamy and slightly nutty sauce. My equal favourite dish of the night.
The duck fried rice showed up as I was trying the prawns, it looked great. I dug in and was pleasantly surprised at the results of the new take on a classic. A very well imagined combination, duck and mushrooms with flavourful fried rice really brought the dish together. My only complaint was the supposed “crispy skin” was limp, texturally, leaving something to be desired.
Oddly enough the oxtail pot stickers were the last dish out.
A lovely crisp outside gave way to a tender and beautifully braised ox tail. If that wasn’t enough to seal the dish they served it with a light but vibrant jus that completed the dish.
I was significantly underwhelmed by Sunda, the dishes inconsistent and the atmosphere really trouncing a social dinner.