When it comes to dining in Chicago, it is essentially impossible to veer off the path of unbelievable options: deep dish pizza drive-bys, brunch spots on every corner, and the dirtiest dirty martinis around. I'm thankful I did not move to the city specifically for the sake of my waist size. But I am thankful I visited, for Brenna and Paige's hospitality and planning surpassed all expectations for my first trip to Chicago since age ten (when I admittedly traveled to Chicago with my mother and grandmother solely to visit the American Girl Museum).
Sunda New Asian hosted our final dinner in the city after a toast at Trump Tower "to many more reunions!" Our waiter swooned us into ordering every sushi roll or starter he recommended. We were told that all plates are meant to be shared and would arrive as they were prepared in the kitchen. The system was perfect for a group dinner and kept our chatter flowing for almost three hours.
For starters, we knocked it out of the park with 3 dishes: crispy brussels sprouts (think ultimate asian chopped salad), steamed shiitake edamame dumplings, and tiger shrimp tempura You will not find this shrimp tempura anywhere else; Sunda's tempura batter is crispy and light rather than panko-crusted and flaky. The bowl of shrimp is then tossed in a stickily superb honey aioli, whole candied walnuts, and subtle herb garnishes, an unthinkable, out-of-this world combination. Six of us shared the three with some bites remaining, so be aware that not all of Sunda's specialties imply small plates. However, you must get all three. We did not have one weak link throughout the meal, so obviously I am suggesting to copy my order with you and your seven girlfriends!
Sunda's crispy rice with tuna and jalapeno, comparable to the famed Katsuya's, could have easily been my favorite first bite on our entire Chicago vacation. Why isn't all rice served crispy?! The execution was flawless, in my opinion. If only Sunda delivered long-distance.
The sushi at Sunda approached traditional rolls with creative elements such as asparagus in a rainbow roll and unagi in a shrimp tempura roll. The fish tasted as if the sea were in Sunda's backyard -- fine and fresh as ever. The tuna sashimi (below) was brilliantly served with a crab cake crust and hot mustard; I am still attempting to solve how Sunda keeps the tuna raw yet pan fries the crab. Brilliant.
We were (without much persuasion) also swooned into not one, but two desserts. The blueberry seasonal cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream proved an automatic winner, but "The Ridiculous" (yes, that's the title) transformed a ginger carrot cake into glaze form for an amusing ice cream topping. The caramel and nuts took my taste buds back to a traditional butter pecan ice cream favorite.
Feast with your eyes, and then reserve your next feast for Sunda while next in Chicago.