Sunda, the sprawling “new Asian” restaurant in River North, is celebrating 10 years! What started as a trendy hotspot has seamlessly morphed into a Chicago classic. In the sea of new restaurants constantly opening in newer neighborhoods like the West Loop and Fulton Market, Sunda has had amazing staying power. We jumped on the invitation to try out their “East meets West” brunch.
If you’re a foodie bitch in-the-know, you’ve certainly been to Sunda. So you probably already know that the space is incredibly large for River North, with a sushi bar running along one side of the dining area. What you may not know is that in addition to the swanky evening vibe of nigiri and cocktails, this restaurant’s brunch game is as strong as its Bloody Marys.
So let’s start there: Sunda offers some exceptionally fun drink options for brunch. Our mimosa spread gave us table-side bottle service and various juice options, including orange, passionfruit, and yuzu guava, plus berries to top off our drinks. The presentation was beautiful, and I love that Sunda let us decide how strong our mimosas were and which juice (or juices!) to add. I particularly enjoyed the yuzu guava; it added the right amount of sweetness to the mimosa and the berries gave it an extra fizz. Having the champagne bottle and juices at our table made the whole brunch feel like a festive celebration.
Okay, now for what might be the most serious brunch cocktail we’ve ever encountered in Chicago: the sumo Mary, which is a monster of a drink and a meal in and of itself. This is not an exaggeration – you could come here, only order the Bloody Mary, and leave full and quite buzzed. For a mere $40, you can get a Bloody Mary in a giant mason jar topped with grilled cheese, a steamed duck bao bun, a crab hand roll, crispy pork belly, shishito peppers, bacon, potatoes, lumpia, takuan, and kai-lan. Everything on this Bloody Mary was delicious. If you are looking for a quick hangover cure so you can start drinking again, this is the drink/meal for you. I loved every minute of this outrageous, over-the-top beverage. Also – I never expected a garnish to be the place I would meet the bacon of my dreams, but in this case – that’s exactly what happened. The garnish is assembled by the chefs in the kitchen, which certainly tells you something about how elaborate it is.
Moving on to our actual meal, we started with the ube bites. These are like donuts, but a little more dense, topped with sweet cream and berries. These were my favorite part of the meal; super moist with the right amount of sweetness.
Our next dish was the silog, which is a Filipino breakfast dish with garlic rice and egg, essentially a deconstructed fried rice. Sunda offers a variety of meat options to add to this dish, but if you can’t decide, you can always order “all of the above” – which is exactly what we did. Our meat-forward silog came with spiced sausage, applewood smoked bacon, marinated sweet pork, and spam. The sausage and pork were incredibly juicy and the bacon would impress any bacon lover – the large pieces were crisp and savory. The spam was a little too salty for my taste, but that’s spam for ya. The garlic rice itself was simple but surprisingly flavorful all on its own.
Nest up: the biscuits and gravy. This typically comes with a fried egg, but we asked for scrambled on ours. The biscuit was fluffy and made the whole dish addicting. The gravy was surprisingly sweet and spicy with a bit of a kick. It was also heavy on the sausage and light on the liquid part of the gravy. We would have liked a little more liquid but the ratio builds on the meat-forward theme we had started to notice with the silog! Our eggs were prepared exactly as ordered.
Last, but certainly not least, we had the braised pork belly on a crispy rice patty. They really should call it the “Sunda Benedict” because that’s what it is. Braised pork belly sits on top of a neat pile of rice with a poached egg on top. The pork was juicy and the poached egg added perfectly to the flavor. I was happy to get a side salad with this dish so I could get some greens in my meal! The house-made dressing made it a delicious, light side to end our meal.
In summary, Sunda is amazing! You will leave asking yourself how it’s possible that you’ve overlooked Sunda brunch until now. What’s even more amazing is that they offer separate gluten-free and vegan menus (for every meal they serve)! Kudos to Sunda for catering to all dietary needs.
The Bitches say: five Champagne flutes
We love Sunda’s giant Bloody Mary, meat-forward dishes, and “East meets West” flavors. Head to Sunda with your friends for a fun and over-the-top brunch!
Sunda serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.