Home LifestyleFood & Drink Silver Apricot Applies a Chinese Lens to Farm-to-Table Cooking

Silver Apricot Applies a Chinese Lens to Farm-to-Table Cooking

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Her take on the Caesar doesn’t rely on hosing down half a head of lettuce with creamy dressing and strafing it with grated cheese. The dressing isn’t creamy at all. It starts with oyster sauce, that classic condiment for Chinese greens. In place of anchovies, Ms. Tong stirs in a purée of fried dace, a canned fish that she used to eat with congee for breakfast in Hong Kong and Macau. As this dark and savory sauce works its way into the warm folds of lettuce, she hits the surface with sesame seeds and toasted chips of garlic. It sounds like too much. It isn’t.

Her caramelized brussels sprouts are, to begin, neither too crunchy nor too soft, and their chile-spiked maple glaze is not too sweet, and whenever you start to remember that brussels sprouts are really just undergrown cabbages you bite into one of the thin, crisp dimes of fried Chinese sausage that Ms. Tong has thrown into the pan.

There is a stab at crab Rangoon that tries too hard; although the peekytoe crab Ms. Tong employs is much better than the imitation crab that the old tiki huts used to favor, it’s not clear that turning the molten filling into a chilled, spiced cream cheese dip for fried won-ton chips really improves on the original.

Anyway, Ms. Tong has already found a higher purpose for won tons: stuffing them with whipped honeynut squash, then boiling them. On their own, they are sweet enough to pass as dessert, but nobody who has tasted the sauce Ms. Tong serves them in will commit that mistake. Made from cured duck eggs, it is somehow the perfect partner for the squash, while also tasting like a mountain cheese that was aged inside a running shoe.

Ms. Tong and Emmeline Zhao, one of her business partners, closed the original Little Tong and its twin in Midtown this year. But the restaurants contained the seeds from which their new restaurant grew. In it early days, Little Tong Noodle Shops drew lines for Ms. Tong’s bowls of mixian, the long, slender rice noodles eaten by the yard in the Chinese province of Yunnan. One patch of the menu looked in another direction, though. Called Little Eats, it was an evolving roster of side dishes in which Ms. Tong evoked Yunnan with local produce, the same stuff that would have been on sale at the Union Square Greenmarket that week.

From the stir-fried fiddleheads and spruce tips she was serving the spring that Little Tong opened, it’s not a giant leap to Silver Apricot’s stir-fry of mushrooms marinated in sesame oil and ringed by cones of Romanesco that stand up like tiny Christmas trees.

The synthesis of Chinese ideas and the Hudson Valley farm-to-table movement is the basis of almost everything Ms. Tong makes at Silver Apricot. It also plants her firmly in a New York tradition of Chinese-American chefs that extends back to Anita Lo, at least, and runs through Thomas Chen at Tuome, Joe Ng of RedFarm and Jonathan Wu of the late and lamented Fung Tu.

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