Twenty Eight Modern Chinese Cuisine
Address: 19530 Jamboree Road, Irvine, Calif.
Status: Opens Wednesday
Top Chef New Orleans finalist Shirley Chung finally debuts here first restaurant when Twenty Eight Modern Chinese Cuisine swings open the doors in Irvine, Calif., on Wednesday. The chef, who got her start in Las Vegas under Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy, Mario Batali and José Andrés, came in fourth during the Season 11 of Top Chef.
While this marks Chung’s seventh restaurant opening, Twenty Eight is the first time the menu and space reflect her values and background. "I am involved in not just the culinary side. From the color of the walls, what artwork we will have in the dining room, to our wine and cocktail program, every single detail, we are making decisions together," Chung says, adding that she partnered with Stacie Tran. Originally, this was supposed to be a consulting project and Chung planned to move on to another after Twenty Eight opened. Tran brought her on board as the executive chef and partner.
"I have opened many restaurants in my career … but this is the first time I am watching my own project built from the ground up. I am learning to deal with general contractors, dealing with the manufacture of our custom furniture. I am learning a lot about the other side of business that I never got to see before."
Chung made a splash on Top Chef with her Chinese dishes from her childhood re-envisioned with her French twist on cooking. The menu here follows her history, incorporating childhood favorites with the lessons she learned in the kitchens of Las Vegas. Chung plans to debut a whole roasted duck with secret duck sauce with classic condiment cucumber watermelon radish and scallions, and lotus crepes. The crepes are an heirloom recipe from Chung’s mother.
Other new dishes include a lobster dumpling with consommé, house-cured head cheese and beef tongue, Singapore-style chili lobster with hand-cut noodles, steamed local black cod in banana leaf, slow-braised oxtail, squid ink hand-cut noodles with uni, 8 treasure rice, and tofu panna cotta with red bean ice cream.
The restaurant also plans to serve dim sum and small plates, with a full bar and craft cocktails. A private dining room opens for private events. The main room and an atrium dining room will be the centers of attention. Chung also anticipates a full-service corporate catering operation.
"I started this project as a consulting project," Chung says. "You know, there are times you wish there are two of yourself because no one else can work at the same pace and gets the ideas in your head? When I started to work closely with Stacie Tran, we felt that connection. I felt like I just found another me, but she is the business version. She is a little crazy, just like me."