“Food breaks barriers,” states the 30-year-old, self taught chef, who has no formal training. Chef Salil Mehta grew up in New Delhi, India; graduated from Parsons in New York City with a Bachelor’s degree in Design & Management, prior to interning at DKNY and Giorgio Armani. Afterward, he became a public relations and events manager for a Queens-based Asian fusion restaurant called Tangra Masala.
Chef Salil Mehta’s passion for food began as a child, cooking at home since the age of ten. His unwavering passion and dedication led to the creation of two restaurants: Laut in Manhattan’s Union Square and The Chinese Club in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg district. While Laut is more established (started in 2010) and one of the first Malaysian restaurants to receive a Michelin Star in New York City, it’s Chef Salil Mehta’s new Brooklyn-based casual eatery that we can’t stop raving about!
Opened in Spring 2016, The Chinese Club is the newest venture of the young, married couple: Chef Salil Mehta and (his wife) Stacey Lo Mehta. We had a quick chat with the inspiring chef to learn more about the restaurant and what the holidays mean for the Mehta family.
Where did you receive your inspiration from for The Chinese Club?
Stacey’s great grandfather, Lo Fung Sho, who was an immigrant worker in Darjeeling, India founded the “Darjeeling Chinese Club” as a cultural refuge for Chinese immigrants and expats living in India–that served as the inspiration for the new restaurant. Plus, since my wife is Chinese and I am Indian, we thought our blended family meals would be perfect… Indian-Chinese is a flavor palate that is new to New Yorkers, but one they are accepting with open arms and happy bellies.
What are some key elements that you have factored into your menu?
Location, originality, and tradition.
We’ve incorporated recipes with Indian spices and Hakka cooking techniques to create [an amalgamation resulting in] Indian-Chinese cuisine (a cuisine that originated in Calcutta, India, from the Hakka ethnic people who immigrated from southern China).
Are you creating specials for the upcoming holidays?
We always have specials that change every month; it’s a part of our “secret” menu. We post “secret,” off-menu items exclusively on our social media outlets, with limited availability–customers have to call ahead to reserve their orders. The menu changes are made every three months.
Challenges are always there; finding the right team to work with can be very difficult. Benefits would include not being stuck in a cubicle with the same routine. Everyday is a new adventure!
What can we expect from The Chinese Club in 2017?
Hopefully more of the same, and opening earlier to accommodate the lunch crowd.
As a young South Asian couple, how are you spending the upcoming holidays?
We spend most holidays working in the restaurant; we are the busiest when everyone else is off. We’re even open Christmas Eve (regular hours) and Christmas Day from 5-11pm! My three kids are my motivation–I want to provide a great lifestyle for my family and, of course, provide great food for my customers.
The Chinese Club is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and includes meat, seafood, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. An innovative wine, sake, and beer menu accompanies the restaurant’s cuisine.