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“We are so lucky.”

I looked at Jeff, our resident food photographer, across the table, only one bite into our meal at Tuome, and couldn’t help remarking on how great life can be sometimes. Especially when those times are spent at charming new restaurants that inspire you to truly savor the moment—where the hardest part of my job becomes how to describe the incredibly sweet staff, cozy atmosphere and the litany of “yums” that each plate induces, without sounding repetitive or gushy.

Well, Tuome, I give up. Cheers to restaurants that charm the words right out of the writer! For the sake of our readers, however, I will do my best.

So, let’s talk about that first bite: a warming mouthful of tender roasted beets and crunchy quinoa, softened with the tangy richness of a spiced, whipped yogurt. The appetizer is evocative of autumn but still bright and simple, and a fantastic way to begin a meal. Satisfying in a comfort-food kind of way, but simultaneously refined and elegantly complex, every plate by chef and owner, Thomas Chen, showcases his extensive background in modern fine dining but are also so clearly true to his heart. This distinctly personal connection that chef Chen infuses into his food is similarly apparent in the distinctly Chinese influence in many of the menu items.

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A single tentacle of delicate but meaty octopus, for example, is given an earthy exotic character with homemade pork XO sauce. The dense, toothsome octopus is offset by a cloud-like foam of rich, brown butter potatoes that is executed table-side.

The skate was melt-in-the-mouth tender, served atop a silky cauliflower puree and accented with miniature florets of salty, crispy cauliflower and buttery Marcona almonds.

Even side dishes were stand outs, especially the sweet corn which took on an almost voluptuous quality when laced with the floral zing of kaffir lime and curry, and finished with a decadent spoonful of crème fraiche.

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Brandon, the general manager at Tuome, is also the unofficial sommelier, and his short but thoughtfully composed wine list is worthy of a visit in and of itself. If you are lucky enough to have him visit your table—something the warm atmosphere and diminutive size of the restaurant seems to easily warrant—you should definitely let him choose your wine for you. The artistry of his choices has the restraint of a master but the exuberance of someone who truly loves their job.

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Which takes me back to mine – on evenings spent like these – I, too, love my job.

– Ava Fedorov

536 East 5th Street, New York, NY

Mon-Thurs: 6PM – 11PM
Fri-Sat: 6PM – 11:30PM
Sunday: 6PM – 10PM

Photos by Jeff Owens for Socially Superlative