Chef Angelo Sosa, formerly of Yumcha - New York, NY
Frog Legs with Pineapple Consommé
Crème Brûlée with Ginger Lime Ice Cream
Ginger Lacquered Veal Cheeks with Sour Apple Salad
Marinated Jellyfish with Chili Oil with Green Apple
“Drunken” Peekytoe Crab Salad with Soft Cardamom
In the ‘80s, high-concept Chinese cuisine
first emerged with multi-unit operations such as China
Grill. On the West Coast, the concept found expression
in a restaurant called Wild Ginger which opened in
Seattle in 1989.
The notion of Chinese food as haute cuisine garnered further
acceptance as diners opened up their palates to unfamiliar
ingredients. New York star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
escalated the trend with his restaurant, 66, which
opened in 2003. While Vongerichten was already incorporating
elements of traditional Chinese food into his fusion cuisine
at his other restaurants, such as Jean Georges, JoJo
and Vong, there was no mistaking the Chinese focus
of the menu at 66.
Now, Vongerichten’s protégé, Chef Angelo
Sosa, has taken up the mantle, exemplifying how chefs can
thoughtfully interpret Chinese flavors for more sophisticated
American palates. Sosa first gained attention for his modern-Chinese
menu at Yumcha, a tiny restaurant in New York City’s
Meatpacking District. More recently, he has been involved
in consulting projects – for Stephen Starr's Buddakan
New York, a next generation mega-restaurant with 260 seats,
and for Alain Ducasse's Spoon concepts in Paris and Monaco.
Later this year, Sosa plans to open a restaurant in New York
City featuring a menu with dishes that are focused on the
rustic foods of Asian country sides.
Chefs going abroad to seek out traditional cuisine resulted
in the increased knowledge of upscale Chinese. Sosa spent
time in cultural hubs such as Hong Kong, France, and Spain,
but it was only in Hong Kong that he found inspiration. He
brought back the ingredients and hands-on experience and uses
his own technique and French training to deliver traditional
Chinese flavors. “I wouldn’t call it a stereotypical
fusion cuisine because I try to stay true to the purity of
the cuisine,” he says.
Regional influences stand out in Sosa’s dishes. His
Ginger-Lacquered Veal Cheeks find their origins in Beijing,
where the cuisine is typified by sweetened vinegary ribs and
candied glazes. “Drunken” Peekytoe Crab Salad
reflects on the frequent use of alcohol in Shanghai cooking.
Soaking fish, eel, crab or chicken in alcohol, such as the
intense Shaoxing wine, lends fermented, aged flavor profiles
characteristic of the region’s cuisine.
“Chinese cuisine is very diverse – one influence
is Italy – but it is also influenced by Thailand, Japan,
India. People don’t realize that,” says Sosa,
who aims to revolutionize Chinese food’s image using
what he learned overseas. Sosa understands its potential in
terms of new concepts and creativity. “The cuisine itself
is flavorful and ancient – but still very underdeveloped
in the US,” he says.