It doesn’t get any fresher and more local than this. With ingredients from down the road crafted unto dishes inspired from across the world, the one-and-a-half-year-old Hudson Food Studio is the only place to get quality Southeast Asian food for miles around. It’s clearly an exciting addition to the burgeoning Hudson food scene, which is already home to innovative and acclaimed restaurants like Swoon Kitchenbar and Fish & Game. The Columbia County city has welcomed David Chicane’s eatery, packing Hudson Food Studio most nights with happy diners amazed at how fresh everything is.
“My goal is to support local farmers,” says Chicane. From the Vietnamese mint to the pork belly, almost everything is locally sourced, he points out, from nine farms, most about five miles away.
Many customers return several times a week, or grab takeout, clamoring for the steamed bun appetizers filled with braised Berkshire pork belly with hoisin ($11) or confit of duck leg with hoisin peanut sauce ($12) or other succulent fillings, with house-made pickles on a Korean bun. Or the lemongrass chicken (Northwind Farms), based on Vietnamese classic clay pot dishes that have a flavorful foundation of caramelization and fish sauce ($15). “It took me a long time to perfect that sauce,” he says. Clearly, the work paid off. When Chicane tried to remove it from the menu at one point, one customer circulated an actual petition to bring it back.
Spicy crabcakes with sambal tartar ($12) draw raves too, as do fresh summer rolls ($8) and noodle dishes such as ramen. Also look for salads, entrees based on creative interpretations with ahi tuna, shrimp, mussels, scallops or littleneck clams (from Montauk, with tomato-fermented black bean sauce and jasmine rice: $24), seasonal mushroom dishes, tofu and “farm dinners” of special seasonal dinners du jour.
But super-fresh ingredients aren’t the only draw. Chicane’s trips to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia inform his creations, as well as his own creative vision. “I put my spin on it,” he says, “and take some liberties.”
The lightness of the cuisines helps too. “‘I feel invigorated,’ people say after they eat here, rather than weighed down,” he says. Southeast Asian food is based on “smaller protein portions, herbs and vegetables,” he points out. Lots of fresh herbs are key. Unlike some other Southeast Asian places that skip them, Chicane feels that they are crucial to the flavor of the food and has convinced some of his farmers to grow Vietnamese mint, Thai basil and shiso (perilla) for him.
Why the name Food Studio? “The word ‘studio’ implies something that is constantly changing, that’s creative,” he says. “It’s based on what’s coming in the back door.” He loves the continual dialogue with the farmers and how they often show up at the door with baskets of something exciting for him to try. That flux keeps what he does from getting boring, he says, like it might for a chef who has to cook the same items every night. Certain popular dishes remain available, but 70 percent of the menu changes constantly.
Another reason for the “studio” in the name is that he plans studio sessions “down the pike.” He will invite guest chefs to do stints of a week’s duration. He plans to offer this six times a year, and thinks that his customers – especially the ones who come in often – will enjoy the change.
Chef Chicane, who worked in Boston and southern New Hampshire before coming here, has owned restaurants before, but Food Studio is his labor of love. The 500-square-foot space was once an art gallery, and it is cozy. But that’s okay with him, as he wanted a low overhead so that he could offer quality food at a fair price.
To that end Chicane did all work on the 22-seat restaurant himself, except the plumbing and electric. He installed the tile and brought in chairs from Hudson antique shops. One table is a longer, communal one, to encourage conviviality. He painted the restaurant all white, for clean lines, leaving exposed brick and a tin ceiling. “It’s simple, clean and refreshing,” he says, “a convivial joint…a little bit noisy, but it’s a place for people to relax and have fun.”
Hudson Food Studio is located at 610 Warren Street and open every evening except Tuesday. There is a cash-only policy; no credit cards. For more information, visit www.hudsonfoodstudio.com or call (518) 828-3459. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.DineHudsonValley.com or www.HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com/category/columns/taste/.