By Sam Pratt
Hudson has at least two dozen spots to buy coffee, and even more for catching a drink. There are a half-dozen local venues serving burgers, three Italian restaurants, several West Indian canteens, two French cafés, two burrito joints, a couple of luncheonettes, a sushi place
, an organic diner
, a kosher restaurant
, take-out Indian
, some barbecue
, a hot dog stand, an occasional Brazilian food cart, a pizza truck
, a wine bar, a ramp festival
, not one
but two high-end bakeries
, a low-end Chinese buffet, and two General Tso’s slingers. Culinary boulevardiers may happen upon Scotch eggs at the Half Moon
saloon, spicy boiled peanuts at Back Bar, Swedish-themed latkes and arctic char at Da|Ba
, and — suddenly — kale salads just about everywhere.
Conspicuously absent amid this riot of dining diversity have been the flavors of Vietnam, Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia. At last, along comes chef David Chicane and his Food Studio
to fill the Hudson void — relieving local diners of those 40-minute drives to Aroi
in Rhinebeck or Truc Orient Express
in West Stockbridge.
Known in New England for cooking everything from haute French to Cuban, Chicane’s 30-year career was highlighted by five years as proprietor of Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar
in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The Boston Globe
wrote that his cuisine “makes a strong statement; his flavors are bold with generous use of herbs and spices and his presentations lean toward abundant portions but simple displays."
With a quick turnaround of a 600-block storefront, Chicane returns to Pearl’s fusion of Southeast Asian influences with the opening of his Hudson Food Studio
. The space is narrow and spare: white walls, cream leather benches, and pressed plywood tables, punctuated by hot orange chopsticks and several circulating bottles of red Sriracha. A long center island with stools accommodates either large groups, or several parties dining happily ensemble.
“I went to Vietnam, and fell in love with the way they treat food," Chicane says, in-between taking deliveries, assisting a benefit for local artist Lee Musselman
, and installing a much-needed second air-conditioning unit. (Food Studio’s opening nights were packed to the rafters, and also sweltering, prompting some local wags to comment: “Welcome to the Mekong Delta.")
Vietnamese is “really light, clean food," Chicane explains. “It’s more herb- than spice-based. When you get done with dinner, you feel good," rather than needing to take either a jog or a nap. “It’s about letting the ingredients speak for themselves."
That keep-it-simple approach is evident in dishes such as bun cha — spicy pork meatballs over plain rice vermicelli (right), with sprouts and fermented nuoc mam fish sauce for dipping — or in the spicy chicken with lime chile, thai basil and mint. Each bright component stands alone yet harmonized, via some inscrutable kitchen thaumaturgy
. Ditto his salad of pink pickled beets, flash-fried goat cheese, almonds, golden raisins, coriander, and pea shoots (below).
“I’m over the ego-driven thing," adds Chicane, alluding to the pitfalls of celebrity chefdom, even here in the sticks. Living right next door to the new restaurant, over his wife Joci Sinauer’s Red Chair
antiques shop, he intends Food Studio as something “for the neighbors. We have only 22-24 seats, and are surrounded by phenomenal farms... I was at a birthday party yesterday, and spent the afternoon talking with a farmer who’s intensely focused on maximizing the nutritional content of his veggies."
It’s an opportunity that’s not lost on Chicane — the chance to meld cuisines from the other side of the globe with local products.
Chicane also intends to maintain a skeleton menu of staple dishes, adding weekly specials based upon what happens to be available from local growers at any given moment. Appetizers, such as fresh summer rolls, fall in the $8-$11 range, with entrées running from $13-$22. A liquor license is on the way, and the eventual arrival of some Thai beer should only add to the authentic charm. In the meantime, rose iced tea contributes another vivid layer to each dish.
Reservations are for parties of six or more; a good idea is to arrive early and if necessary put your name on a short waiting list — killing time with some window browsing on Warren. Just don’t get shanghaied by the pizza truck.
Food Studio Hudson
610 Warren Street
Hudson, New York 12534
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday: 5-10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5-11 p.m.