Chapter 1 was all about the dumplings, the shumai and the baos.
Chapter 2 was the inclusion of traditional and exotic teas to the well-curated menu.
Chapter 3, according to owners Andrew Berman and Keith St. Peter, is the evolution of the House of Wu into what they call the “Shangri-La” edition.
“We were making the food we wanted to eat ourselves,” they tell me over a freshly brewed café con leche that they brought over to me from the Key West Sandwich Company, next door, which they also own and operate with Joshua Eli Pancamo-Mitchell from Sinz Burritos and Garbos Grill. “We had diehard fanatics, but all 18 of them does not a business make. So, we asked the locals what they wanted and we got two responses: salads and Indian food, and we don’t have a hood to do Indian so we present salads.”
After months of customer research, they decided to make some changes. “Sometimes you pursue a concept and it’s good but it doesn’t work. You can’t keep pushing a square peg through a round hole, but you can adjust and navigate.” Goodbye dumplings, shumai and baos, and without making any changes to the interior restaurant itself, hello to salads such as roasted chicken cobb with bacon, avocado, tomato, goat cheese, hard-boiled egg, mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. Although the dim sum may still make a guest appearance here and there, more than likely on a Sunday, the kitchen has seamlessly gone from steaming buns to tossing salads. The “steak-and-shroom” salad that they craft is an umami driven mix of London broil, portobello, button mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, red onion, blue cheese, baby spinach and mustard vinaigrette. The wedge salad is a decadent mountain of bacon, tomato, blue cheese and ranch with balsamic glaze on a thick-cut piece of iceberg lettuce. And the salads are stunning. The colors of “deez beets” with roasted beets, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, cashews, arugula sherry vinaigrette is like a garden mosaic.
The curry chicken salad, which was once the filling of a bao, now has grapes added to give the blend of yellow curry paste, cilantro and green onion a hint of sweet.
There is also a make your own salad option where you can choose from a generous list of ingredients with the usual suspects like baby kale, avocado and chickpeas and specialty items like fried shallots, white anchovies and mandarin oranges. They work with Keys Garden, a local micro-greenery, for anomalies like sunflower sprouts and pea tendrils and they make their own dressings from the tahini to the toasted sesame and the thousand islands. (But they leave the ranch to Hidden Valley, because “you just can’t beat it”). The hummus is made in house and so is the old bay spiced shrimp salad. The options are endless and there must be over 100 different combinations. Even as I write this, I can’t help but come up with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, until I have yet another fully developed salad typed into my cell phone notes to order the next time I am thinking about what to eat at work. They also make for great take home additions to the dinner menu or to refuel post work-out.
“And since we had the fine power of induction already, we figured it would be ideal to make soups to go along with the salads,” Keith adds.
Each day House of Wu posts four different soups of the day on its Facebook page. So far, they’ve had a cream of garlic, tomato cream, a celery blue cheese and a deli macaroni made with meats and hearty veggies. I had the pleasure of trying the coconut curry carrot soup right after I finished my coffee and it was sweet and smooth and had just the right amount of lingering heat.
The menu may be different, but their attention to detail and years of experience in the kitchen is still the same. When it comes to quality, no-fuss food and innovation,
Keith and Andrew are ahead of the game. They have always been known for their cooking skills which they exhibited to the local community at their first establishment, the Kojin Noodle Bar, a hit with locals and tourists alike since opening in 2012. They continue to listen and adapt to their customers and strive to give the people what they want. If House of Wu was an extension of Kojin, then it is now the perfect match for a sandwich shop next door so that one can come and get a sandwich, a salad and a soup and leave the over-processed junk food for another day. Eating well has never been so easy.
House of Wu is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and delivery is available everywhere on the island. ¦
House of Wu 500 Truman Avenue 305- 916- 5320 Facebook: @bestsoupsandsalads