I’m shocked that I have not blogged Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. I was positive that I had, I even took my big girl camera on my last visit.
Some things on the menu are positively delightful, and others make me lament the cash I shelled out for so little. I promise I’ll bang out a full blog later this week, but I highly recommend the purchase of this Groupon.
Nashville (I mean actual Nashville, don’t tell me about anything in Hendersonville, Gallatin, Goodletsville… I’m not going that far) really needs a nice stuck in the 80s cheap Chinese place with a typo riddled menu and an $8 dinner that is serviceable and moderately authentic. Why must every decent bowl of hot & sour soup come from a bistro?
Until then, if I’m going for frou frou, I want Suzy Wong’s or Basil. May as well go 1/2 price. Arnold Myint’s penchant for phenomenal cocktails hold true at this establishment as well.
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.
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:
I have been so daunted by the task of finding the words to adequately describe my Flip Burger Boutique experience, I’m now a proud survivor of my first case of non-term-paper-writer’s-block. I’ve also been grappling with the issue of posting a restaurant from another town. I decided that this was just one of those food experiences that was too good not to share.
It was easily one of my top 5 favorite meals to date, and I didn’t think anything would ever top my food experiences in Italy in high school. Perhaps Flip had an unfair advantage serving up my favorite comfort food, but the boyfriend and I were stupefied by our experience and could NOT stop raving about it. The last time I visited Claire in Atlanta she introduced me to the wonder of Bravo’s Top Chef. I’m primarily an “all Food Network, all the time” kind of girl, but the participation of Arnold Myint swayed me. I LOVED it and added it to my TiVo lineup from my cell phone on her couch about halfway through my first episode. The following All Star season I fell in love with Richard Blais, and I kicked myself regularly for not taking up her offer of a FLIP experience on our last visit.
We told Claire there were 3 things we HAD to do this trip:
- Visit IKEA to pick up the kitchen cabinets for our new landlord (I LOVE wandering around, so this was no hardship)
- Stock up on $2 Buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s
- Get my hands on a Nutella Burnt Marshmallow Milkshake at Flip
I was so excited when we pulled up, I could barely contain myself. The dining room was alive with anticipation and electric energy. The youthful dynamic graphics paired with sleek white counters and elegantly framed mirrors/flat screens were incredibly inviting. We headed out to the charming patio and did our best to take in the diverse menu.
(The menu for the day at the Buckhead location)
None of us could decide on just one burger, so the four of us decided to share the local, the butcher’s cut, steak tartare, and pork chorizo burgers with the fries, fried pickles, vodka battered onion rings, and caramelized brussels sprouts. It’s a really good thing I snapped photos prior to cutting. Those burgers looked a lot less pretty cut in four, especially since two were topped with runny eggs.
Richard does a lot of conceptualizing with his food, everything is incredibly thought out and meticulously executed. I’ve not ever experienced balance and precision like I did here, and it was just a hamburger! He’s not joking when he calls Flip “fine dining between two buns.” The fries were just decent, but the fried pickles and vodka battered onion rings were the best I’ve ever had. They were perfectly tempura battered, and we were surprised to find a mountain of fried starch light and airy.
It was so refreshing for me to get the perfect amount of my favorite southern delicacy at the perfect price point. I love fried pickles but rarely get them, it doesn’t seem worth it to just eat 5 or 6. The sprouts had the perfect amount of caramelization while maintaining its cabbage integrity, and the ginger bacon vinaigrette was the perfect counterpoint. I was a little sad the zucchini fries Beth raved about weren’t on the menu, but everything we did have was delicious.
Onto the burgers, I’m scared. I truly don’t believe that there are words in the English language that can describe the sort of eureka moment you experience when an American classic is perfected. We considered all trying the same burger at the same time and talking about them before starting the next, but we couldn’t help ourselves and just dove right in.
I started with The Local, and it melted my brain. I literally couldn’t tell you much about the experience because I’m pretty sure it was an out of body experience. The menu reads: local organic grass-fed beef, local cheese, farm lettuce, heirloom tomato, vidalia onion, and coca cola ketchup $10.
It was perfect. Being the condiment whore that I am, I would typically give my burger a nice swipe of at least ketchup and mustard, but every single one of the burgers were perfect just the way they were. It was altogether familiar and completely different.
The Butcher’s Cut reads: caramelized onion, blue cheese, frisee red wine jam $8. I don’t typically like frisee, it scratches my throat on the way down, and I get the willies. I was prepared to whip it off after the first bite. I was pleasantly surprised as it worked really well here, especially with the pickled shallots that migrated from the Steak Tartare ;)
My contribution to the lunch order was the Pork Chorizo Burger. The menu reads: pork chorizo, hashbrowns, romesco salsa, manchego cheese, smoked mayo, fried egg $8. It should say “breakfast on a bun, and you would eat it every day if you could get away with it.” The egg exploded all over my plate and my bun was a gooey mess by the time I got to it. It was all I could do to get it down with some semblance of grace, but every bite was glorious. The chorizo was nice and smokey without being oily and the crunch of the spuds was the perfect foil to the supple meat and soft egg. I’ve got to figure out how to incorporate the holy tuber into my own burgers. YUM. None of us could pick a favorite burger that day. I’ve had four days to think on it, and I’m pretty sure Chorizo wins my vote. All familiar flavors combined in a unique way… a must try.
I have some irrational phobias about eating undercooked food. I can’t afford high quality enough sushi to condone ordering raw fish, so I don’t eat it often. I’ve always been squeamish about eating beef tartare. I mean really, beef and raw egg…those are the two things they typically tell you to cook the crap out of to avoid food borne illness. Claire wanted to try this one, and I put my trust in her and Blais.
It was probably my least favorite burger of the day, but it had all of the above and bread and butter pickles stacked against it. The menu reads: Hand chopped filet mignon, 6 minute egg, garlic, chili, capers, pickled shallot, frisee, and smoked mayo $11. I wish it had been a poached egg as the 6 minute egg was incredibly difficult for me to cut and share amongst the four of us. I’m pretty sure a single diner would have had a similar problem picking it up and holding it. It was quite good, and I did enjoy it. I couldn’t imagine eating more than the 3 bites my share provided, but I did eat all 3. Perhaps it was just overshadowed by its superstar castmates and my own food fears.
We finished the meal with the Nutella Burnt Marshmallow milkshake per sweet Lindsay’s suggestion. It was a little more chocolate than Nutella, but the burnt marshmallows were fantastic and I’m pretty sure you’ll find me in my kitchen holding a torch lighter to marshmallows for every subsequent milkshake production.
Richard’s shtick on Top Chef was to put liquid nitrogen in just about every dish. A table next to us ordered theirs to-go and the Styrofoam cup allowed for a pretty awesome presentation with the smoke still wafting out the top. I would have loved to try some of his other creative concoctions from the Krispy Kreme, Captain Crunch, Mango-Ginger, to the traditional Turtle, but I don’t know that I’m up for the Foie Gras.
The food wasn’t cheap, and the 5.5 ounce burger portion is a little on the small side at that price point. The buns were the perfect size, well toasted and buttery. I was pleased to not have to scoop half of the top bun out to comfortably fit everything in one bite like I do everywhere else. The patties were perfectly formed, compacted, cooked, and seasoned. I firmly believe that it was worth every penny and proof positive that quality trumps quantity in satisfaction. We arrived at 12:30 on Saturday and were seated immediately on the patio. Our server was a little frazzled, but it was hot and they had her running between the dining rooms. I’d definitely return, there were still two burgers I really wanted to try after the four we sampled (The d*lux and rBQ) so that has to be a great sign.
(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