I've always wondered where the chefs from our favorite local restaurants eat when they finally get some time away from their busy schedules. Do they prefer to go home and relax? Or do they like to go out? If the latter, what are some of their favorite places, locally and beyond? Do they might have any secret hole in the wall places and would they be willing to share these with us? This column will be on ongoing feature. We start our series with Chris Gonzales of Hapa Food Truck.
Chris Gonzales, Hapa Food Truck
On the rare day or night you’re off from the restaurant where do you prefer to have dinner?
I go home to my mom’s. This time of the year we eat a lot of soups and Sinigang is always my dish of choice. It’s a tamarind based soup we grew up eating in the Philippines.
My favorite version of the dish has a rich tangy pork broth and a heaping serving of seasonal vegetables like bok choy and eggplant… and it MUST be served with a steaming side of white rice!
When dining out what is your favorite local restaurant? Favorite dish?
I follow food, so choosing just one place as a favorite is near impossible. I do have favorite dishes and I love places that have a good vibe. These dishes broke the mouth and have me hooked. Here are my favorite dishes by local restaurants:
Fortina - Wood Roasted Bone Marrow- it’s umami bomb, luxurious bone marrow spread on toast with sweet caramelized onion, cilantro and sea salt. It’s simple and mind blowingly delicious. I could eat this every day if my wife would let me. AlsoCiocalata Densa - the dimensions of flavor in this dessert will take your taste buds on the ride of your life. sweet, salty, and earthy from the olive oil crunchy from the amaretto cookie. Just do yourself a favor and try it.
Mecha Noodle Bar - I’m always on the go, I pop by Norwalk weekly sit the bar and order the Pho King with brisket, marrow oil, and tripe.
Kawa ni- Every time I walk in there It feels like back I'm in Japan. Their respect for the ingredients is something I admire and continue to be inspired by. The hamachi and fluke sashimi is simple but one of my favorite things to eat.
The Cottage (Westport) the Wagyu brisket steamed buns, Sea Urchin Toasts - the briny earthy flavors of good uni and pop from trout roe is the a culinary combination I live for. (I think it's a seasonal menu item)
Viva (cove) - My go to place for 1/2 Chicken, salad, fried rice with everything, maduros, tostones, EXTRA AJI SAUCE.
Winfield Italian Deli- Porchetta sandwich, Ive watched them make the porchetta a lot of time, love, and technique go into making it. I have a lot of respect for the process, the bread is also made in house daily and you can taste that. I eat one of these bad boys every day.
Do you have a favorite local bar or watering hole?
I rarely drink. Occasionally after a long week i’ll stop by bar the bar at Fortina to have a bourbon and a Ciocalata Densa.
How about a secret hole in the wall or as of yet undiscovered (by us) gem?
Have you guys tried the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Steam in Darien yet? Best soup dumplings without having to drive into Queens- It’s not a hole in the wall but DAMN. Call before you visit to make sure it’s on the menu.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the tristate area, excluding Connecticut?
Visiting Blue Hill at Stone Barns was a life changing experience and something that inspired me to start cooking and it’s one of my favorite restaurants for that reason.
…. But realistically always Johnny’s pizzeria in Mt Vernon, NY