Hortus, the Michelin-recognized restaurant combining East Asian and Western flavors seeks to redefine the ‘Asian Fusion’ genre.
If you’re wondering, what does Asian fusion mean? The concept became popular in America in the 1960s and is a type of cuisine characterized by a few different ways to use Asian-style dishes and ingredients mixed in with other kinds of dishes. Asian Fusion menus generally blend two or more Asian cultures in each menu item. For example, there might be a traditional Korean dish offering with an additional kick of South Indian accents, ingredients, and flavors. Asian Fusion marries the best of two or more cultural worlds and continuously expands the dishes to a whole new stratospheres. Hortus’s menu, designed by Executive Chef Lenny Moon, takes diners on an eclectic culinary adventure as he infuses pan-Asian flavors with European techniques. The fusion crossover is apparent on several items on the menu, like the pork ribs seasoned with soy (an infamous Asian ingredient) with pickled cucumber tzatziki (most familiar in the Mediterranean diet).
The restaurant is set on two floors, centered around an open kitchen with a pink marble counter and a Chef’s Table. The second is the main dining room, which is a well-lighted space decked in hunter-green walls and velvety blue chairs. My food buddy Jordi and I sat on the top floor– where we enjoyed church views across the street. For additional seating and features, there’s a lovely hidden garden, great for bigger dinner parties and every Thursday night the Jinjoo Yoo Quartet plays live jazz.
For dinner, Jordi and I explored the tasting menu (priced at $70 / person). This menu allowed us to choose an appetizer, primary, and dessert. We began with the famous Royal Platter for starters, plated on rustic ceramics fitted to the dishes’ colors. This dish included chilled Lobster Tail, Salmon Crudo, and Shrimp Cocktail. The dish has a striking appearance, strongly competing with the beautiful church views across the street. We had more appetizers following the seafood platter, where things got more exciting. Our palates were enchanted by the crisp octopus (which wasn’t too rubbery) served with creamy and unique edamame hummus and sweet summer corn ($24). Next, we had the fried oysters and jumbo prawns paired with pickled radish, carrot, and chili Bahn Mi sauce ($35). To accompany the dishes, we ordered the seasonal specialty cocktails ($11-$14. Our choices included the Peach Mule (Soju, peach, tonic), Black Plum (Soju, makgeolli burnt orange), Oolong high (Oolong tea, soju, lemon, cane sugar and the 5th ave’ ( Jinro 24, Hwayo 23, tonic, mint, lime).
As for the mains, Jordi and I enjoyed the excellent smoky pork ribs and comforting duck. The ribs had a Hawaiian tropical flair from pineapple soy glaze. We both appreciated how the textures of the pickled cucumber tzatziki and fried taro complimented the sweeter ribs. ($32)— Alternatively, the hearty confit duck was another exciting dish on the menu. We especially enjoyed taking a spoonful of bright quinoa salad that soaked up the confit’s gravy and how having the pickled beets as a surprising element to the dish ($34). I drooled over the Truffle Donnabe ($31) on a previous dinner date composed of shaved truffles, wild mushrooms, and cured egg yolk served in a clay pot. If I had to choose a dish that achieves what Chef Lenny Moon is seeking–i.e., redefining Asian Fusion–it’s a tricky tie between the Pork Ribs and the Truffle Donnabe. Both dishes were delicious and seamlessly integrated various ingredients into exceptional meals.
To cap the night, Jordi and I enjoyed a selection of chocolate brownies and panna cotta with an Asian flair. A dose of whipped matcha tops the decadent brownies ($10), and creamy panna cotta ($10) gets a tinge from the yuzu and raspberries. If nothing more, the desserts were delightful.
Hortus NYC is located at 271 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016. Open for dining in, take-out and delivery. For more information, hours, and menus, please visit https://www.hortusnyc.com/.
Alyssa Holder is a writer specializing in food and travel topics since 2015.