Tucked away in the East Village sits Luthun, a refined yet cozy eatery serving up globally-inspired dishes that you aren’t likely to forget. Wooden floors, brick walls and blue accents provide a warm, hospitable atmosphere that lends itself well to an excellent meal. The restaurant is relatively new, having opened in the summer of 2019, and has enjoyed success thanks to its world-class team. The restaurant is now offering a delicious 10-course tasting menu that constantly evolves, taking guests around the globe via a culinary adventure.
See also: The 15 Best Australian Cafes in NYC
Chef partners Nahid Ahmed and Arjuna Bull boast serious culinary chops thanks to their international backgrounds. Ahmed was born in London and raised in South Africa, India and Bangladesh before heading to Switzerland to study cooking. He then worked in some of the world’s most influential kitchens, such as The French Laundry in California, El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck in the UK and Café Gray here in NYC. It was at Café Gray that Ahmed first worked with Bull, leading to Luthun’s inception.
The intimate restaurant seats only 8 at the kitchen counter and 16 in the dining room, providing the chefs the ability to serve a meticulously prepared meal to each and every diner. The open kitchen, understated decor including personal photos of a young Ahmed with his mother and makes the experience feel more akin to dining in a friend’s living room than a restaurant. Photographs of Ahmed’s late mentor, chef Gray Kunz, an extensive cookbook collection, and shelves of spices also adorn the walls. Luthun is named after Ahmed’s late mother, who he lost at a young age, making the restaurant a true labor of love. Upon entering, Ahmed greets each guest and interacts with the tables as the courses are served, completing the restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere.
The tasting menu reflects the chefs’ robust culinary backgrounds, showcasing the creativity and pristine ingredients that are a part of Luthun’s DNA. Expect to find unexpected flavors and advanced cooking techniques that span far beyond the basics. Each of the 10 courses provides a roadmap of sorts, guiding guests through Ahmed’s memories of the flavors, spices, ingredients and techniques he has encountered throughout his long and storied career.
Creativity is truly king, as only one dish has ever been repeated on the tasting menu. Food cultures from around the world come together on highly personal, complex plates that integrate spice, acid, sweet and savory flavors through a focused South Asian lens. The menu is usually in place for three weeks at a time, though individual dishes can change daily. The meal always begins with small bites including Fuchka, Ahmed’s take on the popular Bangladeshi street food and an homage to his heritage. Dishes centered around seafood and vegetables then follow, with fowl and beef playing a supporting role rather than acting as the main event. A beloved signature dish known simply as Shrimp combines French and Vietnamese cuisine through a delicious broth of housemade nuoc cham fish sauce and lemongrass scented mushroom dashi along with buttery morsels of seared foie gras, sweety drop peppers, basil, citrus, cured egg yolk and crispy rice cakes.
Other recent highlights include the scallop crudo with an avocado-kaffir lime sauce and octopus with popcorn grits, tomato butter and wasabi foam. Guests also rave about the Tom Kha Gai, a lemongrass soup popular in Thailand, here served with fried chicken, squid and beef tendon chicharron in a lemongrass soup with passion fruit and chili oil. Our personal favorites? The Mongolian beef cooked over hot stones and the braised oxtail on toasted milk bread layered with mustard yolk, onion-apple marmalade, pickles, freshly grated horseradish, sansho pepper and watercress, served with a side of oxtail consommé.
All great tasting menus are complemented by a fabulous beverage pairing, and Luthun’s doesn’t disappoint. The pairings are just as adventurous and global as the food, including sake made in Paris, natural and classic wines and kombucha for those who opt for zero-proof offerings. Sommelier Jahdea Gildin, formerly of Casa Mono, carefully curated pairings that are unexpected and geared to exploration, completing your culinary journey across the globe. Wines such as the natural Cacique Maravilla Pet Nat Rosé from Chile and Virginia Early Mountain Vineyards’ Young Wine 2021, made with Chambourcin, a unique French-American red hybrid grape with a touch of Vidal Blanc, are included. Next, Atxa Blanco, a white vermouth from the Basque country and Wakaze’s The Classic sake made from French red Camargue rice in Paris. Finally, the concrete-fermented Zuccardi Concreto Malbec from Argentina. Zero-proof pairings include housemade teas, infusions and beverages like Herbal Nectar made with chamomile tea, pear nectar, lemon juice and mint for a refreshing, flavorful accompaniment to your meal. Our favorite no-ABV pairings is the Unified Ferments kombucha and jun, a fermented green tea and honey. Gilden also crafted an eclectic wine list that highlights small producers and off-the-beaten-path selections. Prefer a more traditional bottle? Not to worry, classic bottlings and winemakers also abound. Wines and zero-proof options are available by the glass, bottle, and as pairings.
Located at 432 E. 13th Street, Luthun is open Wednesdays through Saturdays for dining room seatings at 5:30PM and 8:30PM and counter seatings at 6PM and 9PM. Reservations can be made via Resy.
Photography by: chef photo courtesy of Luthun; all food photos by Michael Tulipan/MST Creative PR