Chicago: Sunda

Sunda can pack over 200 guests into its whimsical, sexy dining room. And yet even a restaurant of this size, and with these good looks, can’t compete with the attention garnered by its proprietor Billy Dec. A successful nightclub and sports bar owner, Dec is known around town for his uniform of dark jeans, blazer, and, most notably, a Chicago flag baseball cap. And guess what? About half of the guys I saw walk into Sunda on a recent evening were dressed the same way. It’s sort of sad, actually, because both designer Tony Chi’s room and chef Rodelio Aglibot’s pan-Asian food deserve a little more respect. There are a few misses on the enormous menu—the Thai fried chicken was soggy, as was the exterior of a deep-fried carrot cake, aptly named “ridiculous.” But most dishes were a success: a salad composed of rich, crispy duck and fried egg; hot shrimp toasts spread with a cool tuna “jam”; sweet char siu barbecue pork; and sumptuous bao buns stuffed with roasted duck. This isn't the most nuanced food around—in terms of flavor, Aglibot seems to think that bigger is better. But you can’t really blame him for that. After all, Billy Dec didn't get where he is by being a wallflower.

Sunda 110 W. Illinois St., Chicago (312-644-0500;



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