Chefs Nahid Ahmed and Arjuna Bull have worked together in upscale kitchens all over the U.S. and Europe — from standouts like Lespinasse and Cafe Gray in New York City to El Bulli in Spain and the Fat Duck in the U.K. And tomorrow, the chefs will open a restaurant of their own in the East Village, with a menu inspired by the kaleidoscope of cuisines they’ve worked with in the past.
Luthun, meaning “something new and unexpected” in Bengali and named after Ahmed’s mother, will serve two tasting menus with lots of vegetables, as well as proteins such as squid, monkfish, and veal. Diners can choose between a five-course menu or a 10-course chef’s tasting, which will start off with summery dishes. One course will feature tomatoes with rhubarb, onion, and rose water, while another will have squid with cucumber, avocado, and Amazonian chile.
The chefs aim to make the restaurant at 432 East 13th St., between Avenue A and First Avenue, an intimate, welcoming spot with a constantly changing menu, they say. At first, only the smaller tasting menu will be available; the larger chef’s choice arriving later this summer.
For the menu, the chefs are pulling from several cuisines, each dish inspired by their travels, prior work, and New York’s very own culinary diversity. “We’re very bold with the flavors,” Bull says. The fushka amuse-bouche, for instance, was derived from a fried puff pastry street snack in India, and the monkfish green curry reflects a sauce the duo learned while working for chef Gray Kunz of Lespinasse and Cafe Gray in NYC.
Drinks will be in the hands of sommelier Patrick Reno, who has spent time in Le Bernardin, Avena, and Zuma. Beverage pairings will revolve around beer and wine (domestic, French, Austrian, and German), as well as nonalcoholic options.
The duo met 15 years ago at the now-shuttered Cafe Gray and after working together at several restaurants, they decided they wanted a small restaurant of their own. For two years, the chefs held pop-ups in NYC under the Luthun name until they secured the space in the East Village.
“We’re treating Luthun like our home,” he says. “When we invite you in, we’re not like ‘Sit down. We’re going to feed you.’ We’re welcoming every guest to our home.”
Luthun is a 600-square-foot restaurant designed by the two chefs themselves: It has an open kitchen; earth-toned decor with East Village-esque exposed brick walls; and 29 seats, including nine at a chef’s counter. The five-course menu goes for $68, while the larger one starts at $100, and beverage pairings at $50.
It opens tomorrow afternoon, with the following hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.