If it wasn’t for critics and restaurant guides, who’d ever find a place like this? Nestled mid-block on a dark East Village side street between Avenue A and Avenue B, it’s hardly a spot that attracts much random foot traffic. A popular ramen shop is next door, but who’d know about that either?
But here we find one of the best new restaurants of the year, and better yet, not from any of the recycled names and restaurant empires that command most of the media ink in New York. The chef here is Thomas Chen, an ex-pat of Eleven Madison Park and Commerce. “Tommy” was his childhood name, which morphed into Tuome (“tow-me”).
I don’t want to jinx the guy, but if the early reviews are any guide, Chen in ten years could have himself a hot little empire like David Chang, Mario Carbone, or Andrew Carmellini. Just you wait. Or maybe he’ll stay behind the stove at his namesake spot, and turn it into a Michelin star restaurant. Who knows? Those are heady expectations to put on a chef from whom we’ve had one meal, but I’ll go out on a limb, and say the potential is there. What Chen does with it is up to him.
Chen does this in an unassuming double-storefront, decorated not very originally, with exposed brick, old knick-nacks hanging on the walls, and somewhat uncomfortable wooden chairs facing tables that are a bit too close together. But it’s charming in an East Village-y kind of way.