Until recently, the restaurant Chao Chi in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown
was Chao Chao. Undoubtedly, the name change has confused some individuals. In fact, much more than just two letters in a restaurant name has been changed. Chao Chao drew its name from owner Elaine Chao,
whom I have known (and liked) for years through her association with Taipan and the two Little Kitchens in Westport, Kudeta in New Haven, and other restaurants. The new name, Chao Chi, represents a business partnership with Prasad Chirnomula,
who owns Thali in New Canaan, Ridgefield and Westport (in the former Taipan location) as well as Thali and Thali Too in New Haven.
To say my old friend Prasad has had a busy year would be an understatement, considering that he has been working on three restaurant openings (Thali in Westport, Chao Chi in Newtown, and Oaxaca Kitchen in New Haven). Anyone tempted to typecast talented Prasad as “just an Indian chef and restaurateur” will be suitably impressed after visiting Chao Chi (and Oaxaca Kitchen undoubtedly, when it opens). Beginning perhaps a decade ago, I repeatedly urged Prasad to come to New Haven, and I wasn’t sure he was listening. Three Elm City restaurants later, I’m just thrilled.
Although the name Chao Chi makes perfect sense given the partnership between these two eminently talented and likeable individuals, the casual observer might conclude that it represents a Chinese restaurant. So I’m showing readers the grand time I had at an introductory press dinner on August 11th in order to help spread the message that Chao Chi is in fact Chao Chi American Eatery & Bar.
Just inside the restaurant, you’ll find an oyster bar,
not a sushi bar.
Let me continue the tour of this surprisingly spacious restaurant. Here are more photos taken of the first floor,
which obviously includes a bar and lounge.
Here you see the stairs that connect the two floors of this restaurant.
It’s just as roomy upstairs as down.
And from upstairs, there’s a nice view of the Pootatuck River (sounds vaguely naughty, doesn’t it?).
But when I arrived for the press dinner, bright flowers beautified the exterior.
I passed through the main porch seating
to the smaller area reserved for our get-together, where I was greeted by friend and publicist Linda Kavanagh.
Many of my colleagues from the food press were already there.
Here are some of the delightful hors d’oeuvre we enjoyed, including seared scallops with gravlax and local sweet corn,
jumbo lump blue crab with coconut and a hint of ginger,
burrata Mozzarella with preserved lemon,
and foie gras beignets with balsamic foie gras emulsion.
Before long, we adjourned inside and upstairs to this lovely space for a tasting dinner accompanied with fine wines.
Here is our first wine,
which preceded heirloom tomatoes with Roquefort cream, shallots and pancetta.
Our second wine
arrived ahead of a salad of baby Chioggia beets with crème fraîche, grapefruit, almonds and grape must. The dish was as tasty as it was attractive.
Our third wine
accompanied the next two courses, one of which was a steak tartare with béarnaise ice cream and potato gaufrette,
the other prosciutto and figs with mascarpone cheese, pistachio and arugula.
Our fourth wine
did yeoman’s service with amazingly flavorful and tender peppercorn-encrusted quail with lemon and honey
as well as wild striped bass with roasted artichoke and brandade.
Our fifth and final wine
stood in with Long Island duck breast in a blackberry foie gras emulsion with creamy polenta.
A pair of desserts included vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb and crumbled shortbread
and chocolate bread pudding with strawberry ice cream and crème anglaise.
Giving credit where credit is due, let me introduce chef Adam,
wine guy Steve
and waitperson Emily,
all of whom took terrific care of us. And finally, let me allow Prasad and Elaine to take a figurative bow.
Chao Chi American Eatery & Bar, 1 Glen Road, Sandy Hook, 203-364-9393, www.thali.com