I have the feeling there will be much talk about the Subo experience over the coming days. The newest restaurant to occupy the old Hell's Kitchen space already had the chef tongues in town wagging. Ever since I saw the menu, I couldn't help but think of Momofuku Ssam Bar
and the too-short night I had there when I was in NYC in 2006 cheering on marathoners (runners don't like hanging out in cramped foodie haunts till 3 a.m., go figure). As it turns out, before being lured to the frigid North, chef Neil Guillen was cooking at Kuma Inn which has been cranking out creative Asian-influenced small plates since before Chang knew how to throw the F-bomb.
Subo's got a lot of tickets. It has the urban, edgy building that's cool enough, but not slick or overwrought. It has a small plates menu (which the WSJ just called the way of the future) and some fresh cocktails. It has a Filipino influence (a local need, to be sure), but isn't intimidatingly bound by authenticity. And it's staying open late enough to make it a chef/industry haunt. Interesting.
We started with the recommended Adobo chicken wings, with a garlic soy coconut milk, which were fall-off-the-bone tender. The South East Asian oeufs poches were more impressive, two perfectly poached eggs on buns stuffed with slices of chicken sausage, all doused with a bright lemongrass bearnaise. It was hard to decide which to chase first, the yolk or the sauce. The seared scallops had that cravable crispness, and a sake bacon beurre blanc which was cut nicely by the eggplant marmalade.
Round two starred the roasted "pork candy": Chinese style sausage with palm sugar and lime gastrique. There were just many, many meaty bites of sweet n' tart. My 15 year old couldn't keep his chopsticks out of there. The Filipino fish and chips were crispy,on both accounts, but the salt and vinegar plantains were the ones scraping the bottom of the tobiko aioli bowl. Our veg included steamed edamame (which had a citrusy bite), veggie fried rice, and green curry potato croquettes which were as light as fluff.
Our server was lovely and helpful, breaking down the menu and offering recommendations. The open kitchen provided a view to Guillen and his team working on all the plates. My first visit was full of good food with impressive flavors, which could mean that the few seats perched along the kitchen counter may well end up being the best seats in the house.