If you’ve eaten enough of a certain type of cuisine, it’s easy to suffer a little epicurean ennui now and then. After a while, dishes start to taste the same, experiences blend together. I grew up with Chinese food practically coursing through my veins. I ate it morning, noon, and night. Even desserts were Chinese: almond cookies washed down with almond jelly. However, boredom doesn’t mean abandoning the foods I grew up with — refreshing these dishes is what’s needed.
My recent experience at Wolfgang Puck’s Nest at WP 24, a lounge restaurant literally nestled within the main restaurant 24 floors up in the Ritz Carlton downtown, featuring breathtaking views and casual yet modern pan-Asian fare, is a delicious example of what it means to refresh familiar foods and breathe new life back into classic plates.
One of my favorite Chinese noodle dishes is the humble chow fun; wide rice noodles are fried until they achieve a slippery, chewy texture that melds well with vegetables and savory Chinese sauces. At Nest, the rice noodles are cut extra wide; they look more like pappardelle than ho fun. The broader width delivers a more satisfying texture and envelopes the tender and spicy prime beef, making it the most fun chow fun I’ve eaten to date.
General Tso’s chicken is an Americanized Chinese dish with which I’ve long had a love-hate relationship. This perennial poultry plate, though, is given a Nest makeover with a lighter batter and more balanced seasonings of sweet and spicy.
Dim sum isn’t just for brunch anymore. Nest makes tiny tins of tasty bites available late. The best by far are the sui mai. The flavors are layered: savory, peppery, and umami. I recommend talking the server into filling the tin with all sui mai instead of the dim sum sampling. Even Wolfgang wolfs these down.
If you like peppery heat, you won’t want to miss the sambal black sea bass. The Malaysian fish dish is fried until the flesh becomes delicate and skin turns musically crispy, with a back-throat burn from the special sambal. The runny egg and coconut rice pair up to make this fish just about pescado perfecto.
Nest at WP 24 doesn’t try to reinvent Chinese food, only to refresh it. Which is exactly what my weary palate needed.
WP 24 Nest (at the Ritz-Carlton), 900 W. Olympic Blvd., Downtown, 213-743-8824.