Although many have labeled it South-east Asian, to me, Tuome (pronounced tow-me) is more of an Asian-American micro-bistro with a micro menu serving some exciting twists to familiar dishes in two micro dining rooms tucked away in the nether regions of the East Village. When I noticed that (former-accountant-turned-chef-success-story-in-a-bottle) Thomas Chen offers only 6 appetizers, 5 mains and 4 sides without ever repeating a single ingredient, I knew I needed to settle in and make myself comfortable. The ambiance is romantic enough without any unnecessary fluff. There are a few recycled pieces of rustic bric-a-brac in and amongst the obligatory face-brick, with some interesting incandescent light-bulbs and a single wall of bamboo, but the main features at this 45-seater are the large picture windows…and of course the food.
The Egg is not your regular fourth-of-July variety. This one comes with an international pedigree. After being boiled and shelled, the whites are fried in a deliciously crispy panko crust, while the yolks are deviled and topped with the most wonderful mixture of pickles and chilies.
I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the lonely tentacle of the Octopus with just a few crunchy crumbs of pork infused XO-sauce on the plate, until our server whipped out a red siphon and discharged a handsome mound of beige foam right beside it. “Brown butter and potato espuma”, he declared. Not quite what I was expecting to keep an octopus company, but after tasting the combination of the crispy tentacles with a sweet center, flavored by the umami-rich sauce and velvety, buttery foam, he could have discharged some onto my snow boots and I would have happily lapped it up.
The Chicken is cooked two ways: half of the breast slithers were astonishingly moist and ridiculously velvety – thanks to the gradual cooking of sous-vide, and the rest were fried to a delectably dry crisp. And both were balanced on a satiny porridge pedestal of garlic rice with a few swooshes of basil jus.
I was still in two minds about expecting at least two beef options on the menu, but when the charcoal-colored portion of Chen’s Short-rib effortlessly flakes apart to reveal a moist and tender, dark-watermelon interior that has that slow-braised honey flavor, there simply is no way around the matter but to concede that it doesn’t get much better than this.
Our side of luxuriously duck-fat infused Rice was bound in kale leaves and dotted with slices of fragrant Chinese sausage. One bite and I was instantly teleported to a street vendor in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong.
As our server described the only dessert option, I couldn’t help but notice a half-knowing grin crawl across her face. She probably hadn’t had any takers for the odd marriage of a Chinese beignet with red bean paste all night (or perhaps all week for that matter), and so rather than break with popular appetites, we too abstained and enjoyed the rest of our Tempranillo from the modest – yet highly approachable wine list.