Okay, let’s start with news, so those of you not interested in my social life can move on:
Lulzim Rexhepi isn’t at Xing anymore. He’s back working with his old boss and friend Ian Chalermkittichai at Kittichai, where he’s executive sous chef.
Shirley Lew, who was Lulzim’s #2 at Xing, is the chef there now.
Actually, she has been since Lulzim aka Lou left in, um, July.
Someone was not completely honest with me when he said the chef was still at Xing. Either that or he meant Shirley was still there. That’s possible.
That’s what I learned last night while dining with Sarah Chang, Ian’s girlfriend and, like so many people I meet these days, a graduate of Tufts University.
Sarah and I have more in common than that. We both studied Chinese and lived in Thailand. We also are both fond of Ian, but in different ways.
We ate at Ian’s restaurant, but he was upstairs, working at a party on the rooftop of the 60 Thompson hotel. No one seemed to know who was at the party, only that many of them were wearing suits.
Sarah gave me the low-down on the inner workings of the company that owns Kittichai, which I will not be sharing with you. We also talked about her and Ian's Jack Russell terrier, Kasper. Kasper recently was amusing himself by gnawing on the handles of Ian’s sushi knives. Vet bills are climbing.
Sarah spent time in Thailand on a grant to study overseas Chinese businesses, something she was able to do by befriending the Chearavanont family, which of course owns the Bangkok-based multinational conglomerate Charoen Pokhpand. If you don’t know how important that is, I can’t explain it to you.
So we spoke of many things, including overrated New York Asian-fusion chefs and the fact that Kittichai’s main eating utensil is a pair of chopsticks, despite the fact that Thais don’t eat with chopsticks (unless of course they’re eating Chinese food which, you know, we do too).
She said Ian would like to do away with the chopsticks, but customers keep asking for them.
Just so you know: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese use chopsticks for everyday eating. No one else does. In most of Southeast Asia, especially the rural parts, the right hand is the preferred eating utensil. In most of the rest of the region, especially in urban areas, a spoon and fork are used: The fork is used to push food onto the spoon, which then conveys it to the mouth.
But Sarah and I used the chopsticks, because to ask for a spoon and fork would have been obnoxious. One can only go so local without becoming a jerk.
What we ate and drank:
Kobe beef carpaccio with sukiyaki sauce
pork "tonnato" (actually very thin roasted pork topped with Thai citrus and aromatics)
tuna "phad thai" in which the tuna was cut like the noodles and it was all dressed in a peanut sauce and garnished with bean sprouts
2004 Domaine Hering Pinot Gris (Alsace)
crispy duck and pickled watermelon salad
seared scallops on gai lan (or phak khanna, if you want to do it in Thai)
2003 Domaine Réaltière Cabernet-Syrah blend (Provence)
Chicken khao soi
Line-caught mahi-mahi with a light tom som sauce
Crios de Susana Balbo Cabernet, Mendoza Valley (Argentina)
"Sankaya" pandan white chocolate sauce with seasonal fruit (basically fondue)
Jasmine flan on sweet-and-sour fruit salad with jasmine rice ice cream
2005 Patrizi Muscato d’Asti