Before moving to New York City – when the uni craze was at its peak – I saw a photo on Kate Krader’s Instagram. Captioning a bowl of Bucatini pasta nested in breadcrumbs, she wrote, “Yes on Bucatini with smoked sea urchin & spicy bread crumbs.” Although I had not yet graduated school, yet alone found an apartment in New York, I made a reservation for two at All’onda in May.
By the time my reservation came, I had a temporary place to live, a diploma, and an (unhealthy? obsessive?) knowledge of All’onda‘s chef, Chris Jaeckle, and his menu. At first glance, the menu is classic Italian. The pasta dishes are titled according to shape, “Mezzaluna,” “Agnolotti,” “Garganelli.” However, like the Uni Bucatini, the underlying descriptions that accompany these names reveal the chef’s unexpected fascination with Japanese cuisine. The Agnolotti, for example, is paired with an XO sauce, a fishy, oil-laden Asian kitchen staple, that has been Italian-ified (if you will) with soppressata and Italian pistachios.
On my first visit to All’onda, I entered the dining room expecting to find a decor reminiscent of the subtle quirkiness of the menu. Instead, the dining room itself could belong to any upscale Italian restaurant. Downstairs, there is a large communal table with a bar, but the upstairs is dim with an assortment of two-tops and four-top booths. As we slid into a table, a few tourists took photos of their food at the table next to us, but the dining room seemed to be filled mostly with New Yorkers who discovered Jaeckle’s talent when the restaurant opened in January.
Veering from my original source of inspiration, I ordered the Garganelli with Peeky Toe Crab, prawns, calamari, citrus, and taragon. Tossed with sweet pieces of delicious crab, and toasted bread crumbs, the dish has a depth of flavor created by the taragon, but is still light with notes of citrus. The Japanese influence is found in a subtle spicyness that comes as an aftertaste, created by a Japenese condiment called yuzu kosho, which is made from fermented yuzu peel and chiles.
At this point, I’ve joined the ranks of New Yorkers who return to All’onda for quiet date nights and for their new brunch menu (where Grapefruit Palomas replaced Bloody Mary’s). I’ve tried nearly all of the pastas on the menu, and can’t find one that stands out from the others. Each pasta has the strong flavors of classic Italian cooking, with a hint of Japanese inspiration that makes it unforgettable. (And yes, the Uni Bucatini is as good as Kate’s Instagram leads you to believe).
Photograph Courtesy of Spaceworks