CHÔ, an all-day restaurant and bar is the quintessential destination for a casual evening with friends or shindigs. Nestled in a 160-year-old haveli overlooking the city’s revered Qutub Minar, nature is the protagonist of the space, where indoors seamlessly flow into lush tropical outdoors. Punctuated with windows, wicker, bamboo and steel are popular materials in the architecture of a Vietnamese household. Adorned with vibrant wall art, handmade floor tiles and handcrafted wicker baskets, the space echoes the hospitable and tropical essence of a family cottage in Vietnam, making it a relaxed home away from home.
CHÔ first opened its doors recently and is a collaborative effort by Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, and Chennai-based Santosh Group. Vaibhav Bhargava is an award-winning Chef who has worked before with brands like Guppy by Ai, Noma, and Gurgaon-based Viet Nom.
Chef Vaibhav is also associated with Sustainable Measure Italy: Slow Food Movement that advocates a cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace and aims to preserve cultural cuisine and in so doing to preserve the food plants and seeds, domestic animals and farming within an eco-region. Above all, he strongly advocates the concept of Farm-to-Fork and has done multiple events to promote serving local food at restaurants and school cafeterias.
To know more about CHO and its conception, we interacted with Chef Vaibhav Bhargava himself.
Tell us about CHO and how you conceptualised it?
CHÔ is my brainchild; after working as a food consultant, I have been thinking of opening a Vietnamese cuisine restaurant for Delhi. My last similar concept restaurant was in Gurgaon, and people these days find travelling very difficult between Delhi/NCR because of the growing traffic. So, I wanted to Delhi people to experience it as well. It was a concept I webbed a few years ago when I was in Vietnam, getting hands-on experience on Vietnamese cuisine. Thankful to that period, today it became a reality where I can introduce Indian audiences to traditional Vietnamese flavours but made for a modern palate. During the pandemic time, many restaurants got shut and that’s where we got the opportunity to take over a restaurant. We spoke to many Investors regarding the same and then we finalised with Santosh food and beverages which is run by Santosh Mahalingam.
According to you what is the USP of CHO?
CHO’s vision is to make sure that we focus on the health of the guest as well while serving the freshest food being sourced from the nearby farmers directly. The dishes have been created so that we can incorporate the goodness of herbs in every dish which helps the body to maintain the system. Ninety per cent of Vietnamese cuisine is either steamed or boiled, with a vegetable base. The ingredients are very comfortable on the tummy and so are the variations that we have curated at CHÔ. Be it the mock meat or the gluten-free dumplings, for us, the dietary preferences of the well-travelled audience are of great significance.
USP also is the beautiful terrace from where you can enjoy the beautiful view of Qutub Minar and ambience along with good music. CHO is a place where everyone is welcomed. One can enjoy a goodtime either by spending time with friends or families or even alone by sitting in the veranda and reading a book along with our Authentic Vietnamese Coffee.
From where do you source your ingredients and how do you test the quality of your ingredients?
Our primary source of vegetable ingredients comes from farms like fresh salad leaves or herbs etc and we have specific vendors who provide us with the best ingredients available in the market. Few ingredients we have sourced from Vietnam itself with the help of the Vietnamese embassy. Quality ingredients are the key for any good food and we take it very seriously. At the receiving area, Chefs check every ingredient which is received from the suppliers.
What’s different on the menu?
The menu has a lot to offer for all kinds of taste palates. I have created the menu on the lines of classic dishes, technique-based dishes and a few inspirational dishes (modern twist to classic dishes). Dishes like Vietnamese pizza, Banh Beo (steamed rice cakes topped with dry prawns n chili oil), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), steamed bitter melon with prawns, Duck puff, Gluten-free chicken dumplings etc are a few dishes which are new offerings to our guests.
How important is the food presentation?
Apart from social media exposure, there are certain reasons why food needs to be presented well in the restaurant. The visual aesthetics of the food is the first aspect that gives customers an idea of what their entire food experience is going to be like in terms of taste and feel.
When one customer loves your food presentation, they are more likely to take a picture of it and post it on Instagram, this, in turn, opens doors and opportunities for your restaurant to appear in front of new people and stay relevant to your customer base and we at CHÔ would want all our guests to feel the ‘Instagramable’ effect once they are in CHÔ.
What is your idea of a perfect meal?
Without a doubt, health is the most crucial and precious part of a person’s life.
For me, healthy eating or an ideal meal is not only built from the food but also the habits and how people eat a meal. Eating healthy food in a logical and sensible way will make a huge difference and that, I think, is an ideal meal. Then you can term it under soup and bread or rice and curry.
What are the most popular items on the menu and why?
- Vietnamese PHO (the national dish)
- Braised pork belly
- Vietnamese curry
- Duck puff
- Prawn Dim sum with Tobiko
- Crispy Prawns rice sheet rolls
- Then my signature mock meat dish. It is crispy mock meat and vegetables tossed in Tso chilli sauce.
The dishes are popular because they are fresh, light, and super healthy.
How will restaurants adapt to the new culture of social distancing?
Face shields and masks to the rescue! Before COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants’ emergency preparedness of this nature was unprecedented, thus it is essential to study response from the industry to be better prepared with contingency plans should another wave occur in the future.
What’s the next big thing for the restaurant trade?
Maintaining product consistency and delivering it continuously is a major challenge these days because of staff turnover.
Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
Chef Manjit gill, Rene Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay are some of the chefs I admire. Gordon Ramsay is extremely hard working and that is one of, if not the main reason that he has had so much success as a cook, restaurant owner and TV personality; I admire his resilience. Ramsay started with nothing, had a tough family life and background, yet still managed to work his way up the restaurant trade from the bottom to the top by the time he was forty.
Are you planning to expand?
Yes, we have an expansion plan. We are looking out for new places to expand pan India.