I’ve been wanting to try Patti Myint’s famous salad for quite some time. It just kept slipping my mind and wrangling enough people willing to take the challenge proved tougher than I thought. My Belmont days aren’t THAT far behind me and I’m still in horror of their parking situation. It keeps me from visiting the Myint Miracle Mile as much as I’d like. You have to hit International Market at the right time if you want to park legally. (If you CAN find a parking spot, run in and get the Tom Yum soup with shrimp and chicken. Stir in a side of rice… you can thank me later. Her epic salad isn’t her only good one, the Crying Tiger spicy beef salad is no slouch.)
Patti Myint’s salad at International Market (via Nashville Scene)
According to the diagram, the streamlined version differs from hers by the exclusion of mango, cucumber, tomato, lemongrass, shrimp and squid, pork with ginger, and plain garlic.
Arnold’s Restaurant Week version at Cha Chah. It’s a spectacular looking mise en place, even Iron Chef Garces would approve. (Food Network geek inside joke, sorry)
This meal was so reminiscent of my mother’s tremendous spring rolls. I was in HEAVEN. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks and could barely concentrate all day. Usually that sets me up for failure. Nothing ever lives up to that kind of expectation.
Until now. Everything about it was amazing and surpassed my alarmingly high culinary expectations
Let’s back up a little. Two weeks ago I got tweeted a restaurant recommendation from Tom Colicchio himself. Tonight I walked into Cha Chah and saw Kevin Sbraga sitting at a table by the bar. He’s the winner of Arnold’s season of Top Chef, DC. As we were seated I heard heavily accented English that could only come from Patti Myint. Turns out Patti was dragging Chef Sbraga across the street to sample HER version of the famous salad. Alright, now I’m really excited. Then I see Chef Vito. Then I see Arnold. Then the ever fabulous Metropolitan (pseudo Manhattan) arrives. The night is already awesome. Then I see that Vivek has tweeted that Tiffany Derry (also from Top Chef DC) liked the salad so much, she put it on the bar menu at her new restaurant, Private Social in Dallas. Talk about making a Top Chef addict’s night! At this point I’m smiling like an idiot and I haven’t even eaten yet!
(via Arnold’s Facebook)
Ok, I’m beyond ready. BRING IT.
They DEFINITELY brought it. First you get a nice tray of romaine hearts, leaf lettuce layered with rice paper, and a mound of rice noodles. It took considerable effort to stack and arrange those properly; even more to keep the rice paper at the right consistency throughout. I was impressed before my first bite.
2 cheese boards lined with ramekins of vegetables and a vast variety of accoutrements followed by two bowls of protein round out your experience.
Patti and Kevin returned at the same time the plates started arriving at our table. She told us to “Put in one of the meats and then ONE of everything else in the lettuce. Then eat it all in one bite. It’s the best way to savor the “flavor explosions.”
I’m a rebel and this one has both proteins. Shhh, don’t tell Patti.
When she came back to check on us, she noticed all of the mini lime wedges discarded on our plates. We mistakenly assumed that you were meant to squeeze the lime on the toppings… not so. You’re supposed to chew up the whole thing, rind and all. I never in my life would have thought a sweet lady would demand I chew and swallow a lime. Listen to your elders. The woman knows her stuff, it brought everything to a whole new level.
It was a LONG day. Please ignore my second chin & stringy hair and focus on the delightful Miss Patti.
From the background to the foreground, left to right you see:
Beef Pork and onions 2) chicken salad with rice noodles
row 2) sweet chili sauce, basil leaves, celery leaves, Thai chili
row 3) cilantro and Kaffir lime leaves
row 4) pickled garlic, toasted coconut, carrot, fresh pineapple
row 5) pickled ginger, roasted unsalted peanuts, red onion, tiny lime wedges (eat whole)
The chicken was good, but nowhere near as delectable as the
beef pork. I swear our server told us it was pork, but we were convinced our favorite protein was in fact beef. Matching to the labeled Patti picture, I’m pretty confident it was beef. Either way, it was hands down our favorite part of the meal and precisely like my mom makes it. Incredibly flavorful and rich, it’s well balanced by the bright array of veggies. Arnold’s comment proves in that it was, in fact, pork. Color me sheepish.
We were instructed to try one of everything all at once, at least once. Not a single one of us changed up the line up. Go round and round with the cute wooden tongs and load up that lettuce cup. We were never able to master the one bite thing, but we happily chowed them down in two. Not to say your skill can improve at dumping things in lettuce, but the flavors steadily progressed throughout our gluttonous eat-your-own-adventure. Every bite was better than the last.
I don’t know if Chef Myint knew I was a huge Top Chef fan, but I was positively delighted when he brought Chef Sbraga to our table. He was sweet, charming, and warm. We swapped notes on the Myint Empire’s delectable cocktails. Say what you will about the revolutionary Patterson and Holland Houses… the House of Myint’s been shaking up some inventive and fantastic drinks for years. I recall sneaking out of a night class between the exam and the lecture for a Lychee Martini across the street at PM. It’s one of my favorite acts of collegiate rebellion… you know besides spiking my Sonic diet cherry limeades in Business Management ;)
By the way, when I told Chef Sbraga he couldn’t leave without the Elk Osso Bucco if it was still on the menu, Arnold informed me it is for now, but they are having trouble sourcing it due to their high demand. So get your buns to Cha Chah TWICE in the immediate future.
Our sweet server, Evan, worked HARD for his money tonight. That poor guy barely made it back to our table with a few refills before we needed another round. I think we had 4 trays of lettuce. We were not shy, and they were happy to help us out. I finally told him enough with the small bowls of cilantro, bring us a big one. We killed that too. In an effort to keep up, Chef Myint finally sent him back out to collect our ramekins so he could wash them. Yeah, the owner was back there washing dishes… one of many reasons he’s a bad ass.
Check out a fraction of the damage…
I picked the perfect friends to accompany me on this incredible culinary adventure. We had a fantastic time and savored every bite. I begged Chef Vito to find some of their salted caramel so we could really make a lasting impression on the girls’ first visit.
I think they liked it, I know they’ll be back. I’m sure I will. :)
My only words of wisdom are:
- Thai chilis are by no means mild, do not try to be a hero.
- The pickled ginger is a bit overwhelming if you use a full slice, feel free to break it down a bit more.
- Short of a food allergy, there is absolutely no reason to not try every ingredient at least once.
- Do not be shy, they will bring you more so just GO FOR IT
- Standard table manners do not apply to this dish.
- Listen to Mama Myint and eat the whole chunk of lime.
- Thank the Myints for introducing you to this fantastic experience… and bring friends!
- Hurry to Cha Chah before you miss this once in a lifetime experience
- Haul your big camera and invite a proficient photographer if you can’t seem to capture decent low light food photos like me… Thanks Laura!
Arnold’s right. Everything is better with a hint of Myint.
ChaChah opens for dinner at 5 PM Tuesday-Saturday. That means you have 3 more nights to try this. Keep in mind it is $20 a person and you need a minimum of 3 companions to participate. You know, unless you want to shell out $100 and try this beast on your own… but then you have to explain to your conscience how you ate a three figure salad.
It’s that time again :) RESTAURANT WEEK!
Beware, some restaurant week menus aren’t really a deal at all. And if you and your dining companion have completely opposing tastes the limited menu can be more hassle than its worth.
My friend Nick talked me into escaping the office to finally get my hands on The Local Burger. Nick is launching an awesome bow tie company, and I’d been dying to learn more. The food could have tasted of cardboard and I’d have still enjoyed myself. Check it out, Brier and Moss has some really exciting things coming.
Fido is doing 2 lunch specials and 2 desserts for $20.12 this week. Our plan was to see if the specials looked good and do that, otherwise we’d get The Local Burger.
Lucky us, the burger is on the special board! Actually all of the specials sounded delicious, but the time had finally come for that burger.
I’m proud to report that the hype holds true, the Local Burger is divine. It may not be my favorite burger in town, but it was definitely delicious.
The specials this week
The burger comes with a side salad, kettle chips or the soup of the day.
I lucked out because the soup of the day was very appealing as well. Roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, and gruyere in a creamy warming concoction perfect for the complete downpour we waded through en route.
It was well seasoned and herbaceous. I’d go back for a big bowl with some crusty bread.
Burger purists need not apply. This is definitely a gourmet burger laden with layered flavors. I feel some of it gets muddled as I didn’t taste the fig or much fennel and I had trouble discerning much over the pickles and fried onion. The meat was delectable and the top bun was great. The bottom just wasn’t up to the challenge of collecting the runoff from the incredibly juicy burger. Maybe the solution is to eat it upside down next time ;)
I found myself wishing for some freshness after the burger and creamy soup.
Unfortunately the smore’s cheesecake didn’t really fit the bill. I’ve saved it for later but it looks delicious.
For me, The Local Burger was a great one time meal. It was good, but I think I’ll have to satisfy my burger craving elsewhere. I’d gladly go back to try any of the lunch specials for the week, they all sounded fabulous.
I have a confession to make-
I’ve been a major food funk. I have liked almost nothing I’ve come in contact with the last few months. I’ve been disappointed by just about everything I’ve encountered and the blog went on the back burner. There have been a few good things here and there, but nothing that ignited the kind of passion required for a full post. Old favorites like Riffs (holy jesus the Buffalo Mac & Cheese) and Jonbalaya (yay parfait!) gave me a glimmer of hope. A few dishes at Cha Chah even sparked an interest. I was beyond due for a rock your socks off meal.
If it’s confession Tuesday, I’ve got a few more….
2) I have a little foodie crush on Arnold Myint.
I have another confession to make-
3) I usually leave his restaurants underwhelmed. I want to love it, I try so hard… but I usually leave a little sad I stepped outside my price range for what I wind up getting. No offense to Arnold, I’m just broke… and if I’m going to spend that much I want to rave about it.
4) Cha Chah BLEW MY MIND on Friday night. I thought I knew what to expect, but I didn’t have any idea. Are you ready for this?
It was perfect timing that the invitation to come try Cha Chah’s new menu items popped up about the same time the boyfriend’s mother’s 50th birthday popped on my radar. I woke up anxious every morning thinking about dinner. Would it finally break my food funk? Chef Francesco Vito had me cautiously optimistic after our last visit. I was SO ready to get there.
I apologize for the photos, I have NEVER been able to take a decent food shot in Cha Chah.
These fried tomatillo pickles ($6) rocked my world. I love vinegar. I love pickles. I LOVE fried pickles. I genuinely adored every bite of these delicious nuggets. I tend to think they let the fry go too dark at Cha Chah, but the smokey nutty flavor really enhanced this dish. The aioli was delightfully paired.
While the bacon and bleu cheese stuffed dates ($6) slightly resemble something Andrew Zimmerman chases… they were perfectly balanced. The sweet date was the perfect vehicle for the savory/creamy/salty filling.
The ginger crab cakes ($11) with homemade chow chow and Harissa aioli were a completely fresh take on my standard go-to dish. The pickled mustard seeds served up the perfect pucker atop the breaded sweet crab meat.
We didn’t know if we should order the flat bread, how could we possibly eat this many starters and still tackle our dinners? Our server assured us the rabbit confit ($11) was not to be missed. The heirloom potatoes quickly became my number one shopping obsession. I have GOT to get my hands on some of these babies to play around with. Not typically a fig fan, the boyfriend plucked every spare fig he could off the table. They were perfect. When Chef Vito came to visit at the end of our meal, he gleefully informed us that he even makes the ricotta in house. What a busy man! They cure their own meats, bake their own bread, they even make their own cheese? Did I hear that right?
Twitter informed me that the Mushroom Crock Pot ($9) was a must have! Farm house egg, house made bacon, delicious house baked bread… it was a perfect bite when shared 3 ways. No one was upset that the boyfriend detests mushrooms. More for us!
I loathed brussels sprouts as a child, but as an adult I cannot pass them up.I’ve ordered the sprouts on all but one of my visits. The one time I gave them up in favor of trying other things I left feeling bereft. To the standard diner, they may over do it on the smoked vinegar a hair, but I delight in the tangy broken buds with Marcona almonds. They have revamped my stock Cha Chah favorite with the addition of Thai chili, red onion, and a sprinkle of shaved parm. I rarely share, that night I just had to. If that’s not love… no really, did you LOOK at the amount of food on our table? We haven’t even gotten to the entrees!
Usually I talk the boyfriend into ordering whatever second entree it was that I was dying to try. I did him a solid this trip and backed up his order with the meatloaf ($17). I grew up in a no-meatloaf household, and I’m far from a connoisseur. Even with my limited bank of meatloaf expertise, I couldn’t help but wonder… Lamb? Bacon? Duck Jus? These are things that aren’t found in even the most adventurous Mama’s meatloaf. Good thing we have Arnold and Vito to introduce us to such culinary genius. While I’d have preferred a shallower slice with more crusty surface area, it was a delicious hunk o’ meat. A savvy vegetarian might ask for an entree of just the parsnip puree and roasted carrots as they were my favorite savory bites of the night. Lucky for the vegetarians, they were serving a vegetarian meatloaf option that night.
I love pig… I really do. I NEVER order pork. Ever. I somehow always seem to glaze over it on the menu. I know I read “Ginger Tea Pork Loin ($17) Bok Choy, Sesame Soy Reduction Heirloom Potato-Mushroom Hash,” but it didn’t register. Good thing our companion, Michelle, noticed it. That plate stole the show. It was delightful in its simplicity. The sides were fantastic, but that pork was perfectly amazing.
We loved the Elk Osso Bucco ($19) so much last time, the boyfriend had already decided on a repeat performance before I’d even reserved our table.
The rosemary polenta outshone its previous iteration and the spaghetti squash made more sense this time around. The Chinese broccoli was a welcome addition to the plate. Do I really need to say more than ELK OSSO BUCCO? Where else are you going to get that? Just a hint of gaminess and a mouthful of well developed flavor.
I almost ordered the Cornish Game Hen ($16) last time just to get the my grubby mitts on the sweet potato gnocchi. I was glad Boyfriend’s Mama decided to give it a whirl. The hen was juicy and tender, but the plate was a wealth of soft brown. I was hoping for some crispy skin or perhaps more char on the veggies. On any other night the plate could have curled my toes, but everything else on our overladen table outshone the hen. So Lesley may be right in this case. Hens are friends, not food.
Aren’t they cute? Give her a great birthday gift and check out her charming lifestyle blog here. I wish I looked that good now, forget ringing in 50.
We made a HUGE dent in that menu. I need to go back with seafood lovers. I was anxious to try the paella and the arctic char.
I was about 30 seconds from a food coma by the time dessert came out. This was a delicious warm spiced apple confection with walnut ice cream.
The chocolate parade with house made marshmallows, hot chocolate… smore something, chocolate torte something.. I don’t know, I couldnt focus. I could barely keep from just putting my face directly into this next one.
The clouds parted and angels sang when this landed in front of me. For real, how lucky am I? The Salted Caramel Panna Cotta with toffee knocked my world off it’s axis. I thought Vito had rendered me speechless with his spicy pumpkin ice cream… I literally lost my power of speech after my first bite. My molars might have been fused together with the salty sticky heaven, but I was so happy! Very happy. I was painfully full by the time these came out, but it just may have hurt me more to leave half of it on the table. 4 of us barely made a dent. Ive seriously considered coming back and asking for parsnip puree for dinner and then going right to this and calling it a night.
Vito came to visit with a tray of rosemary ice cream. It was even better than the last batch. I told him my companions didn’t believe me that his spicy pumpkin beat Jeni’s ice cream for me. So he dug around his freezer until he found us some.
If I hadn’t just eaten my face off, I’d have sat there until all of this ice cream got taken down. I’m not even a dessert person. I take salty over sweet any day, but I really could not get enough of these confections.
I don’t remember what we were laughing at to make this photo so awkward, but there was nothing funny about how incredible our dinner was. Chef Vito, Arnold, and the entire Cha Chah family did an absolutely fantastic job.
If you would have asked me if I’d recommend Cha Cha for a special occasion before, I’d have been hesitant. I’d readily throw it into the mix for a happy hour pitcher of sangria and a few tapas. For a special occasion I’d have probably directed you elsewhere. Nothing on the menu tops $20, but if you’re as epicurious as we are it really racks up! I can say with absolutely no reservation that our meal on Friday was one of my top 5 favorites in the states. (I’m a carb-aholic, nothing competes with 10 days in Italy…)
We ate so well Friday night, we didn’t eat until almost 10 PM the following day. I don’t usually over indulge, but I could NOT force my fork down on Friday. We couldn’t stop gushing to anyone who visited our table about how delighted we were about the whole thing. I’ll continue to sing Cha Chah’s praises, and I’ll have one eye on the bank balance until its comfortably high enough to go back ;) The brunch menu had a bunch of interesting selections, we’re tackling that next.
RUN to Cha Chah for a nice warm plate of comfort and camaraderie. The space is lovely and this menu is divine.
Reason #476 why you should hit Cha Chah:
(via Nashville Scene)
Yelp Drink Week is May 9th-15th. Celebrate with several local eateries with discounted cocktails to help combat The Daily Beast’s proclamation that Nashville’s the soberest city in America.
So far, the list is rather enticing! Arnold Myint, get ready to take my money.
Drink #1 Jack Daniels Honey Old-Fashioned - $3.50
Drink #2 Jack Daniels Honey & Coke - $3.25
Drink #3 Yazoo Gerst Pint - $2.50
Drink #1 Honey Myint Julep - $5.50
Drink #2 Sangria Pitcher - $9
Drink #3 Blackberry Mimosa - $4.50
Drink #1 Bottle of Arrington Vineyard -$19
Drink #2 glass of Little Black Dress - $4
Drink #3 Lucky Bucket Brewing Co. - $3
Drink #1 Honey Myint Julep - $5.50
Drink #2 Coconut Martini - $5.50
Drink#3 Passionfruit Sangria- $4.50
Suzy Wong’s House Of Yum
Drink #1 Honey Myint Julep - $5.50
Drink #2 Passionfruit Sangria - $4
Drink #3 Skedka Lemongrass Lemonade - $4.50
Tin Roof (Demonbreun location)
Drink #1 Yazoo Dos Peros - $2
Drink #2 shot of Jack Daniels - $3.50
Drink #3 Jack Daniels Honey Mixer - $3.50
Tin Roof 2 (Cool Springs location)
Drink #1 Yazoo Dos Peros - $2
Drink #2 Jack Daniels Honey Mixer - $3.50
Drink #3 Margarita - $3.50
Village Pub & Beer Garden
Drink #1 The Original Moscow Mule - $2.50
Drink #2 The English Ass - $2.50
Drink #3 The Tennessee Mule - $2.50