We made a bowl with David Chang, the subject line in my inbox reads. OK, click. Carbon-neutral kelp!, it says. “You should try it,” my coworkers Phil and Candace decide.
And that's how Sweetgreen’s Tingly Sweet Potato + Kelp Bowl by David Chang—a “limited-edition,” notably extra $15 concoction of kale, roast chicken, tomatoes, red cabbage, wild rice, ~tingly~ white sweet potatoes, “carbon-neutral” marinated kelp, lime juice and cashew-lime dressing—ended up on my desk at 1:53 p.m. on a Thursday.
A little backstory: The fast-casual salad spot frequently collaborates with influential chefs: In 2018, it launched a designer squash bowl with chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns; before that it was a chopped Italian salad with Osteria Mozza’s chef Nancy Silverton. This time, they tapped chef David Chang (of the Momofuku empire) to create a dish that, according to The Washington Post, will “raise the awareness of seaweed, an ingredient that has the potential to improve the health of our oceans, our bodies and even the finances of Maine lobstermen.” Even a salad skeptic like me will admit that the climate change angle is appealing. Maybe this will offset the plastic salad containers that make up 90 percent of our office trash.
Back to my lunch: I crack open the compostable-but-not-actually-compostable container and take a whiff. It smells...ocean-y. Or is that just the kale? There’s a tangled mass of noodly seaweed in one corner and a pile of potatoes in another. I gingerly take a bite, trying to not overload my fork with kelp. Nevertheless, it immediately gets stuck in my teeth. If I smile right now, it will look like I’ve been swimming in the Atlantic with my mouth open.
The upside? Those tingly white sweet potatoes—marinated in Momofuku’s Tingly seasoned salt, a Sichuan peppercorn spice blend that’s mouth-numbing, but lacks the burn of a chile pepper—are actually really delicious. In fact, they’re the best part of the salad and I eat them all first, leaving behind a mess of kale and kelp. More potatoes, please.
Spoiler: I don’t finish the rest of the salad. Filled with raw kale and cabbage, my stomach starts to gurgle. I decide that if you don’t mind spending $15 on a lunch that will mostly end up stuck in your teeth, this salad is for you. Those potatoes, though, I could eat an entire bowl of.