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Embeya's Bold, Brash New Direction Under Mike Sheerin

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Jul 1, 2015 2:30PM

Shrimp rice cakes

When Embeya (564 W. Randolph St.) ousted partner/chef Thai Dang, many people wondered what would happen to the restaurant. Everyone was surprised when Mike Sheerin took the position of executive chef.

Fried squid

While Dang's style was clean, bright and traditionalist, Sheerin's is bold, brash and iconoclastic. Salty, fatty, spicy and heavy with aromatics; there is a lot to love here. We ordered many of the small dishes and loved what we tried. An excellent fried squid is redolent of kaffir lime and mint with prickles of sansho, which has similar mouth-numbing properties as sichuan pepper. Crispy rice cakes, which are like rice versions of tater tots, are topped with a salty-fishy golden sauce made with cured egg yolks and dried shrimp.

Salmon tartare

Seared tuna

Charred baby carrots

Smoky seared tuna is balanced by a coconut yogurt studded with Thai chilis. A creamy salmon tartare is wonderful with the additions of briny sea beans and candied sesame. The carrots are a must-order, charred until tender but still slightly crispy and topped with slices of salty ham, crunchy seaweed and a tart yuzu dressing. It shows Sheerin is deft with taking on any vision he's told to execute.

Chocolate ganache

But save room for dessert, because Chef Sarah Jordan, who worked with Sheerin at Cicchetti, has crafted an excellent menu. The highlight is the ganache, a solid square of fudgy chocolate deliciousness perched on a house-made graham cracker paired with some salty-sweet miso ice cream.

While I'm sad Dang was pushed out, since he's opening his own place, we may have traded one good restaurant for two.