Welcome to Sound Cheque, where we sit down with one of our favorite bands to get the scoop on their city-by-city dining picks.
[Photos: Gabriele Stabile]
Last Sunday James Murphy was running in and out of Soho House's kitchen, serving platters of fermented sausage with a bottle of Chang in the left breast pocket of his whites. At first blush, it was an odd and funny sight, considering the man's last major New York City appearance was at Madison Square Garden, in black blazer and white shirt, to bid farewell to his band LCD Soundsystem. But he was there helping out his girlfriend, Christina Topsoe, who was hosting a Thai New Year's brunch with James Beard-nominated chef Kris Yenbamroong, of the L.A. restaurant Night + Market. They had invited some friends, including David Chang and Aziz Ansari, and the onslaught of dishes the trio put out didn't let up for hours. The food-mad couple hope to do it again.
In the following interview, they talk about what it was like to be in the kitchen and share the best meals they've had around the world, from Noma to Ten Bells to Momofuku Seiobo.
How did the lunch thing come about?
JM: Christina was about to join the Soho House, and I'm on the membership committee.
CT: So James started talking to them about things that we like to do and the events we like to be part of.
JM: Yeah, because I did Le Fooding.
CT: He pitched them the lunch, with him helping out, and they said yes.
And why Kris Yenbamroong?
CT: Actually, I wanted to bring something to the Soho House that their members probably don't try often. I had originally thought about bringing food in from the outer boroughs, like spicy Szechuan food from Flushing or Indian. There were some logistical problems with that. I speak Chinese, so I was able to speak to people at my favorite restaurants, but they didn't know or seem to care about the place we were putting on the lunch. So, we knew of Kris' restaurant and felt that it was honestly better than the Thai food you could get in New York.
JM: And totally different.
CT: Yeah, he makes mainly Northern Thai food and doesn't tone down the spiciness. It's a fun experience to eat his food — and he just got nominated for a James Beard Award — so it all made sense.
Did you guys actually cook? You were wearing whites...
JM: Oh yeah, definitely.
CT: Kris was obviously overseeing the kitchen, but I prepped throughout the weekend, and Nancy [Whang] from the band was there prepping the day before as well. James and I both helped him cook on Sunday, the day of the lunch.
Was it all pretty smooth or were you ever in the shit?
JM: No, we were in shit! You have to remember, here's a chef who's used to cooking in his own restaurant; you have to be a pain in the ass, because you don't know where anything is. Where is a towel to wipe my hands? It's always a little more complicated. But the head chefs from the Soho House were great and willing to help out and do anything.
CT: It's always difficult to cook a cuisine that requires such particular equipment and then you have to go cook in a different kitchen. The food they do at Soho House is traditional, lots of Italian-inspired food, so they don't have huge wok burners, so we sort of had to improvise. The wok was tiny, so we had to cook everything in hundreds of batches. That's what was hard — being in someone else's kitchen while trying to not be a pain in the ass.
JM: I think that's why we did so much cooking. Easier for Kris to boss us around.
Will you do more of these?
JM: I certainly hope so.
CT: We already have ideas for the future.
JM: If they want us back!
Now to the places you like to eat while in New York and in your travels.
CT: We eat out constantly, because we're never really in a place long enough to develop a cooking habit. We spend a lot of time in New York and in London, but also in other.
JM: We are professionally out-eaters. It all depends on where we are. In New York and London it can get a little bit boring because we tend to go to the same places that are close to where we live.
What are the staples?
JM: I've been really liking Isa. We live near Walter Foods, Marlow & Sons, and a new dumpling place that I think is going to die but is really good. What's it called?
CT: Sensation, I think. We went to Frej yesterday, in the Kinfolk Studios, which I thought was really good. I'm Danish so I quite like the fact that the Nordic cuisine is gaining some impact in New York. For me, the ingredients and flavor profiles remind me of being in Denmark in the summer.
And in London?
CT: In London, we go to Brawn like once a week at least. Brawn is really delicious. They have a dangerous and delicious wine list.
CT: If you've been to Verre Volé in Paris, it's similar but just bigger and with more food.
What about elsewhere?
JM: Some of them are obvious, like Noma in Copenhagen.
What time of year did you go?
CT: We went about a year ago in the winter — maybe December 2010. It's really weird, because they need to get products from the Nordic winter.
JM: We like to eat in Spain and Singapore, too.
Tell me about Spain.
JM: We just passed through Singapore on our way to Australia, and Barcelona we do often.
CT: We end up going to the same places a lot, like Bar Mut and Cañete.
JM: And Cal Pep, which we didn't really want to do because of the line. We thought it was going to be a mess and overhyped, but we went and it was outrageously delicious. Exceptional.
CT: In general, a lot of the places we end up liking are the ones that aren't too precious or stuffy or super serious. We go to places that are comforting and good and delicious, not necessarily of the moment.
JM: When we were in Shanghai, we basically just ate the street food, which was amazing.
Do you give a shit about the music they play in restaurants? If you do, what are some places that nail it?
JM: I go back and forth on whether I give a shit. If it's loud enough, I definitely give a shit. Like if they're playing bad music and it's loud, it's infuriating.
What's something that infuriates you?
JM: Music that I hate, I'm not sure.
CT: We were in a place in London recently and you actually couldn't stay in there because you hated it so much.
JM: Yeah, yeah, yeah — they were playing like kind of laid back chill pop and I wanted to fucking shoot myself in the face. Marlow in Brooklyn will play music really loud, but it's music that I really like, so it's OK.
CT: Momofuku's playlists are always great. We just went to Seiobo in Sydney.
Is the playlist there similar to the ones in New York?
CT: Yeah, it's similar to Ko.
JM: I don't know the Ko playlist because I got too drunk to remember.
CT: We did the pairings that night. We tried to tone it down at Seiobo but ended up ordering so much that we got too drunk to get up.
Any last words?
JM: Ten Bells in the city is really, really good.
You mean the one in New York and not where the Young Turks are cooking in London?
JM: Yeah, the one in New York. We're actually going to the one in London on Saturday.
CT: But the one in New York is a wonderful wine-drinking restaurant.
JM: The boquerones and arugula salad, the tripe, and the rabbit rillette are out of this world. You should just go and have them pick out all the wines for you.
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