Update: WUJI will be opening in Westport & Greenwich in 2016.
I was recently invited to dine at WUJI, a new Chinese dining concept in Scarsdale. I heard rumors that WUJI was different from many other local Chinese restaurants that serve Americanized Chinese food, which can be heavy, greasy and salty, and those rumors are true.
Nestled in the charming village of Scarsdale, WUJI sits unassumingly tucked away from the sidewalk, with several red and white bicycles parked in front for local deliveries. There’s a very small seating area outside, protected by large hedges for privacy. Inside, the interior is simple, stylish and elegant without formality. Light grey walls, dark furniture with clean lines and framed oversized photographs of Buddha statues hang on the walls and give the restaurant a gallery-like feel. The bar area is framed by two enormous blue and white ginger jars that sit against cool white subway tiles. A mosaic created by shards of Blue Willow China anchor the far wall.
As beautiful as the restaurant is, the food is the star of the show. WUJI’s concept is a fresh take on Chinese cuisine, with organic chicken, pasture raised pork, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, cage-free eggs and organic vegetables. Only the purest and most natural ingredients are used.
The menu is generous without being overwhelming and I had the good fortune to sample many of its wonderful items.
We were presented with five appetizers, or Dim Sum. I first sampled the Chinese Heritage Spare Ribs with Honey and Plum Glazed Organic Pork. The meat was tender to the bone and perfectly seasoned. I’d have helped myself to several more but knew that I had a long night of food ahead of me and pacing myself was a priority. I haven’t met too many spare ribs I didn’t like, but these were exemplary.
The next dish was the Chicken and Peanut Spring Rolls. Again, I couldn’t stop after one bite. The exterior was perfectly crispy and light, the interior burst with subtle flavor. I added more intense flavor by dipping it into the spicy mustard sauce, which packed a nice kick but wasn’t too strong.
The Bao Bao Buns were well executed. Berkshire pork, daikon and house-made pickle sat inside a nice, soft steamed bun. The sweetness of the pork and the sourness of the pickle were perfectly balanced by the pillowy soft dough. We also sampled two types of dumplings, Shrimp and Chive Dumplings and Organic Vegetable Dumplings. If you’re a dumpling lover you will not be disappointed.
Next we were presented a beautifully prepared Classic Peking Duck with hoisin sauce, scallions and mu shu pancakes plus a Cantonese Roast Chicken with crispy skin, garlic and shallots. I tried the duck first. The meat was tender and supple and cooked to perfection, with no gaminess or oiliness typically equated with this fowl. The meat was mild and almost sweet. The chicken was also wonderful, the meat was perfectly seasoned, perfectly tender.
There were several other dishes that were a modern take on tradition Chinese cuisine. Each item balanced a sweetness with a spicy kick, just enough to cause some heat without starting a fire. For those wishing for a spicier adaptation ask for some of their hot sauce.
General Tso’s Fish was a fun variation on the dish we have come to know and love. The tender flaky fish was served coated in a delicate, crispy crust and served with ginger chili sauce to change things up a bit…it delivered sophisticated flavors. Chef Joe’s Dragon Chicken may sound fiery with its red chilies and sugar peas, but don’t be intimidated. There is some heat, but not enough to set off any alarms. The Chinese Char Siu, honey BBQ pork with pickled cucumber was delicious. If you like a really good spare rib without the mess, this is for you. Again the meat was perfectly tender and practically melts in your mouth. The Tangerine Beef with a tangy citrus glaze and Shanghai bok choy may have been my favorite of the foursome. Sweet, crispy and fiery; there was a lot of flavor in a small bite.
Four wonderful accompaniments joined our Classics. The first was the Roast Pork Shanghai Noodles with stir-fry vegetables and sesame ginger sauce. It was delicious and I wanted to take home a bowl of the noodles for a cold day and a good movie. The Chinatown Stir Fry was every bit I had hoped it to be, with mixed local organic vegetables that remained crisp and full of flavor without swimming in a heavy sauce; I highly recommend. The Organic Fried Rice featured seasonal local vegetables, fresh ginger, shallots and green onion and was very good. My favorite was by far the Spicy Fried Rice, which was served with a sunny-side up egg on top…original, creative and bright green in color, this dish was bursting with flavor.
To complement the food selection, WUJI offers a large selection of beverages that pair well with the food, plus a selection of wine, Asian beer and sake, or diners can sip on fun “tiki” cocktails that are made with spirits and fresh squeezed juices. The simple herbal infused iced tea stole the beverage show. They were infused with pear and ginger and these refreshing iced tea served as a perfect palate cooler after some of the spicier bites.
After so many selections I wanted call out the most memorable:
- Chinese Heritage Spare Ribs,
- Chicken and Peanut Spring Rolls,
- Shrimp and Chive Dumplings,
- Classic Peking Duck,
- Chef Joe’s Dragon Chicken,
- Tangerine Beef, Spicy Fried Rice, and
- The Herbal Infused Iced Tea.
Although a bit of a drive for many of us who live in Connecticut, a trip to WUJI will be well worth your while. Go on the earlier side and meander through some of the charming streets and shops nearby in downtown Scarsdale. For those who prefer to stay closer to home, WUJI will be opening in Westport near the train station in early 2016. I’d make a point of stopping by.
WUJI is the product of MAAC Hospitality group, a powerhouse WUJI Restaurant is owned and operated by MAAC Hospitality Group, a powerhouse team consisting of: MarkGagnon, a CIA trained chef and the former Director of Operations for Stephen Starr’s Buddakhan restaurants; Samantha Starr, former Director of Training with W Hotels and also a trained CIA chef; Tor Newcomer, rock starmusician and former general manager of Michel Nischan’s Dressing Room in Westport, CT; Chef Hugh Moran, former executive chef of 16 years at Buddakhan NYC; Chef Peter Klein, former executive chef of China Grill in NY; Executive Chef Guang Zanghou from Hong Kong and the former chef of China White in Greenwich, CT and Purchase, NY; and Jody Pennette the founder and creative mind behind cb5 Hospitality Consulting, who has Pennette has invented and implemented 250 individual restaurants from scratch as well as concepts for hotels, casinos, cruise ships, rock stars, and even a few kings. Locally, his restaurants have included Baang, Splash, Bleu, Rouge, Lolita, Gabriel’s, Eleven 14 Kitchen at JHouse.
2 Chase Road - Scarsdale, NY