Earlier this year, restaurateur David Chang solicited applause and a few eyebrow raises from the culinary community when he quietly opened Nishi, an Asian-Italian fusion eatery. While the Asian cuisine aspect wasn't necessarily new territory for Chang, who owns a handful of successful restaurants around the world, inventive dishes like Ceci e Pepe (a play on Cacio e Pepe, made with chickpea hozon as a cheese substitute) and lo mein-based Clams Grand Lisboa bloomed into social media sensations.
And then, only months after opening Nishi, Chang announced his plan to launch Ando, a food delivery service following in the footsteps of companies like Maple (of which Chang is an investor). Every day, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., users would be able to choose from a small selection of main courses and sides prepared by chef J.J. Basil, a WD-50 alum.
Much to the delight of his followers, Chang documented the recipe-testing process on his Instagram, uploading snaps of cheesesteak, fried chicken, and egg salad sandwiches made Japanese style. My curiosity piqued, I joined the app's waitlist and was accepted a few days later.
The only catch? Ando is currently delivering solely in New York's Midtown East via UberRUSH, and the InStyle offices are located all the way downtown. The thought of having access to Chang's latest brainchild without trying it seemed irresponsible, so I took a look at a map of Midtown East, located a place I could pick it up near the E Train, and placed an order. (For anyone else outside of the current delivery area, please note that these delivery guys are prompt. I barely made it on time to meet Anthony, my Ando courier, who took one look at my frantic face and sweaty hairline and asked if I was okay.)
Thirty minutes later, I was gazing down at a spread of crispy fried chicken (one thigh, one breast), a still-warm N.Y.C. cheesesteak, coleslaw, loaded potato salad, a hibiscus-pomegranate glazed doughnut, and three mini “Ritz cracker” cookies dreamed up by Momofuku Milk Bar genius Christina Tosi. Luckily, the spread also included an Ando-emblazoned bib.
The chicken is flawless, perhaps on account of the “secret spices,” and comes with a side of honey mustard and standard coleslaw. I was a bit worried that the crust would become soggy in transit, but my concern was assuaged as I happily scraped up every last bit of salty skin from the paper box. In between bites of poultry, I worked on the N.Y.C. cheesesteak, a heaping mass of juicy beef made with Momofuku’s famous chickpea hozon, and topped with cheese sauce and onions.
The loaded potato salad, served cold and decorated with black pepper sour cream, capers, pepperoni, and vinegar chips, is a delicious update on the classic, but offered me no respite from the decadent, salty feast in front of me. I realized that I made a mistake in not ordering one of the three orange soda options offered by Ando, a beverage selection that at once puzzled me and induced a nostalgic yearning to binge-watch Kenan & Kel.
I guzzled some water and moved onto dessert, beginning with the doughnut. The glaze is perfect—not too sweet and perfectly tart—and the dough is slightly dense and springy, almost like that of an angel food cake. If you’re wondering to yourself, Where does a doughnut fit in with this menu? The answer is: it might not. But it’s David Chang’s world and we’re all just living in it.
To finish, I polished off a mini cookie so rich with butter it would have made Paula Deen weep with joy. My only regret is that I didn’t save it for later, once the food coma had worn off.
So what makes Ando different from other food delivery services? Perhaps it’s the mastermind behind the operation, whose legacy is shining an extra bright light on his newest endeavor. Or maybe it’s the fact that the details of the process—from recipe testing to beta testing—is being broadcasted on social media, giving followers a chance to feel like they’re in on the project. But most likely, Ando is going to stand out because it’s decadent and special and unlike anything you’d typically eat on a normal weekday afternoon. I’m still going to be thinking about that fried chicken two weeks from now, and I can’t say the same for the chopped salad I ate on Tuesday.
Want in? Sign up for Ando’s waitlist here.