Ng opens iNg Cuisine
June 30, 2005
Aspen’s kitchens tend to be populated by a worldly and itinerant lot. For the culinary experts, Aspen often seems a shuttle stop on the route from Miami to Boulder to San Francisco.Chef Henry Ng has moved around a bit in his 25 years in the valley. But Ng has confined his travels pretty much to downtown Aspen: Arthur’s on Main Street when he first arrived in town in the late ’70s; Fins at the Fireside Inn, under Shadow Mountain; Szechwan Gardens, where Kenichi now sits; Eastern Winds on Cooper Avenue; and, most recently, back to Main Street, where Ng was a key ingredient at Matsuhisa.At 55, Ng has finally broken out of the commercial core. He has also, finally, entered the realm of the chef-owner. Two weeks ago, Ng and his wife, Amy, opened iNg Cuisine in the Aspen Business Center (the restaurant is pronounced “ing” and Ng is pronounced “ang.”)The new spot is a far cry from the spacious restaurants Ng worked in in the past; iNg Cuisine is inside the Mountain Naturals health food store. But it is the culmination of a long-held dream for Ng.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time,” said the native of Taison, China. “I want to create something that’s my own experience, create a new cuisine.”Ng has plenty to draw from. At the age of 7, he began shopping and cooking for his family, which included five children. He trained in restaurants in Hong Kong before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-’70s. In 1979, he got a call from a Los Angeles friend that the highly regarded Chinese restaurant Arthur’s needed kitchen help. Ng headed to Aspen.As head chef at Arthur’s, Ng brought the popular restaurant to a new level. It was included on a list of the 10 best restaurants in the country. After Arthur’s experienced business troubles, Ng landed at Fins, where, for the first time, he experienced French cooking. He later returned to more familiar terrain at Szechwan Gardens and Eastern Winds. At Matsuhisa, his attention was divided between working the sushi bar, handling Chinese-food catering and training kitchen staff.Ng says that all that experience has been turned into a cuisine with a unique touch. Some of the dishes at iNg are borrowed from other kitchens. But the Pepper Halibut, reduced in Chinese black vinegar and mirin; and Shrimp Yuzu Basil with fresh tomatoes, are new creations.
“All my life is cooking,” said Ng. “I take all the experience from before and create new dishes. What I make now is very different from before. People’s tastes change every day and I have to do what people like.”iNg Cuisine serves an assortment of sushi, sashimi and sushi rolls in addition to the Chinese-inspired dishes. Appropriate to the location, most of the food is organic; the chicken is free-range. iNg is a dinner-only restaurant, and delivery service is soon to be added to their menu.Amy Ng, Henry’s partner of 20 years, handles the bookkeeping. A valley resident for 35 years, she has been a projectionist at the Wheeler Opera House, an herbalist, and a hostess at Arthur’s, where she met Ng. She is also an artist, whose glass-and-wire mobiles have been sold through local galleries.The Ngs had tried opening their own restaurant before, moving to Maryland in 1990 to become business owners. The plan, however, fell through, and the couple returned to Aspen. So when Amy was asked what the challenges of operating a restaurant in Aspen are, she gave a knowing look.
“There are so many,” she said.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com