By Asian Fusion Editorial team
Atlas Kitchen is a contemporary Chinese eatery opening on the Upper West Side of New York. The entire restaurant draws inspiration from one of China’s oldest myths, The Classics of Mountains and Seas, and introduces China’s all eight regional flavors through Chef Kaiyuan Li’s creative cooking.
Chef Kaiyuan Li
Li, Head Chef at Atlas Kitchen, has over 20 years of experience in the culinary industry and is recognized as a First Tier National Chef in China. Li worked at Hunan Manor—the first Hunan regional eatery in New York—when it first opened and has become one of the founding figures of the Hunan regional fare in New York.
Championing quality and fresh ingredients and the preservation of natural flavors in food, chef Li has created an all-new menu for the opening ofAtlas Kitchen. Doing away with traditionally expected dishes like mouthwatering chicken, Li has set a new standard for creative Chinese fare with his uncompromising spirit and impeccable culinary skills.
Cuisine and Signature Dishes
Chef Li plays with the fare and goes utterly creative through combining unexpected ingredients. For instance, Sautéed Luffa with Short-neck Clams gives a twist to the traditionally on-its-own luffa dish. Adding the shellfish, Chef Li created a dish that has surprisingly smooth texture and savory flavor accompanied by a touch of umami induced by the vegetable.
Chef Li goes above and beyond to bring out the unique flavor of each ingredient, even if it requires inventing new ways to cook the dish. Arguably the most popular dish is the Pan Fried Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. This plate is cooked at tableside and designed for customers to taste the shrimp in its best state right out of the pan. 258 West 109th Street New York, NY 10025
Having 3 years of cooking experience in Germany, Chef Li also incorporates German’s beloved stewing technique into his cooking. One example is Beef Flank in Drywok. Quality flank is seasoned in peppers and lotus root broth, giving the meat a rounded and fragrant flavor. Then he stews the flavored flank for 2 hours and adds handmade beef wontons in the end, making it a truly unexpected and hearty dish.
The Braised Fish with Perilla is another signature dish in a way that requires laborious prepping. Imported from the local market every morning, the fish is first marinated with secret sauce for 2 hours, then lightly fried and finally stewed on precise heat. Perilla leaves are added in the end for extra fragrant herb flavor.
Philosophy and Artist Inspiration
Atlas Kitchen is a collaborative force amongst two owners Haocheng Sun (a private art collector), Dong Chen, and artist Qiu Anxiong. Qiu graduated from Kunsthochschule of University Kassel, Germany and is a distinguished contemporary artist. Since exhibiting internationally in early 2002, his works have been collected by MoMA, The MET, and the Brooklyn Museum, and amongst other reputable institutions.
Specifically, Atlas Kitchen is a continual exploration of the artist’s most well-known work, the animation series “New Classics of the Mountains and the Seas,” which is painted as the mural centerpiece in the main dining room. Qiu takes inspiration from the mythical tales of the earliest Chinese civilization to explore contemporary China’s relationship with modernity. Qiu, through Atlas Kitchen, further surveys China’s contemporaneity and leads the audience to rediscover the treasures of China’s mountain and sea fare.
In addition to the mural, every year Qiu will create two paintings for Atlas Kitchen, depicting the coming year’s special culinary themes, bridging art and cuisine into a singular influence. This year, the opening themes are the lobster and the pork knuckles.
The name ‘Atlas’ refers to mountains and seas in Chinese translation, connoting China’s geographic history and its perspective of the world. ‘Atlas’ conveys the hopes of connecting with China’s historical root and channeling this energy to recreate the present. Echoing between the past and the future, Atlas Kitchen is at a threshold— ready to take on China’s embracing and enduring spirit, and soar to new heights.
Interior and Ambience
The interior design is executed by New Practice Studio that designed Hao Noodle, Hunan Slurp, Tang Hotpot, etc. The interior decor is segmented by layers of blue, green, gray, and brown, echoing the themes of ‘atlas.’ The mural in the main dining area depicting mountains and towers is a reproduction of two long frames in artist Qiu’s project “New Classics of Mountains and Seas.” Qiu uses traditional Chinese watercolor to illustrate futuristic elements i.e. submarine whales, bat airplanes, and other imaginary creatures. The sand colored walls echo with the light gray countertops, creating a warm and spacious atmosphere. The blue tiles on the floor are carved in geometric beige lines, mirroring the shapes of the mountains. Respectively, the colors at Atlas Kitchen are toned down from top to bottom, and into the inner private dining room. The private dining area is designed for a more intimate vibe. Set in sea blue murals and gray seating, the inner section is designed with a unique lighting system that offers intimacy and privacy.
258 West 109th Street New York, NY 10025