On Global Filipinos: When in Chicago, check out Billy Dec’s Sunda

Dinner with Billy Dec, owner of Sunda; lawyer Maricar Madrid-Crost; and Dr. Angie Cruz.

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

Dr. Angie Cruz and myself were in Chicago recently to visit our friend, immigration lawyer Maricar Madrid-Crost. She invited us to lunch at this upscale Filipino American place called Sunda New Asian Restaurant located in 110 West Illinois Street in the River North District.

Sunda, named after a Southeast Asian Island, has an impressive, stylish and elegant decor.

We were more impressed to be joined by no less than the owner of Sunda, Billy Dec, a serial entrepreneur who recently opened a Sunda Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. Billy is best known in the Filipino American community as a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders during President Obama’s administration.

He told us the story of how his grandmother would cook those delicious Filipino dishes when he was growing up. When she died in the Philippines, he was dismayed that he wasn’t able to film his grandmother as she cooked those dishes that he loved.

Aside from being a nightclub and restaurateur (in the past 20 years with his now ex-co-founder Brad Young), Billy is also a television personality, an attorney, a philanthropist, the Podcast host of “The Meal Of Your Life,” and recently, a film producer under Elston Films.

Wagyu beef skirt steak
Assorted dim sum.

In fact, Billy is raising funds to present his recently concluded documentary of his two oldest living aunts, including the 103-year-old last remaining Filipino tattoo master. The film will be called “Food. Roots. Philippines” and will air on PBS-TV.

Back to Sunda Chicago. We ate ravenously the specialty Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Pork Adobo Fried Rice, Miso Glazed Sea Bass, Lemongrass Beef Lollipops, Chicken Chicharon and Pancit Canton. Of course, we had Halo-Halo for dessert which we all shared, having eaten so much.

Most interesting was the special First Thursday of Every Month offering called Kamayan Feast. In one long table on banana leaves are the traditional Filipino dishes of Lechon Kawali, Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Shrimp and Chicken Adobo Skewers, Whole Crispy Snapper, Longaniza, Purple Cauliflower, Crispy Pork Pata, and more. These goodies are shared family-style and eaten with hands, no fork, spoon or knife! That is why it is called “Kamayan,” meaning “with hands.”

No worries for diners unfamiliar or unsure about eating with no utensils. The friendly waiters will teach you how to eat with your fingers.

Sunda is open every day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late supper.

© The FilAm 2019

Leave a Reply