A look at Chef Stephan Brezinsky’s delightful Chao Chao

by | Dec 6, 2016 | Dining

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Chef Stephan Brezinsky

Nobody knows the neighborhood better than a native.

In pursuit of his lifelong passion for French and Vietnamese food, Stephan Brezinsky — who was born and raised in Alphabet City — has recently opened Chao Chao on Avenue A, which boasts cuisine geared at those whose palates are adventurous and bold.

“Taro Tots” are made with apioca and coconut flake battered taro, fried and tossed in wasabi tobiko and finger limes, and served with fish sauce aioli. Beef Cheeks are marinated in shrimp paste and slow cooked in a lemongrass coconut milk curry with egg noodles.
Cauliflower Three Ways

Cauliflower Three Ways

The Autumn Curry is a blend of seasonal vegetables stewed in a coconut milk yellow curry flavored with turmeric and pickled Vietnamese peppercorns. Cauliflower Three Ways is made with pickled, fried, and raw cauliflower, tossed with shredded granny smith apples, chardonnay vinaigrette, and fried garbanzo bean. If you order one thing, though, let it be the traditional Thịt Kho, updated with braised pork shoulder and belly, served in a caramel fish sauce, topped with a pickled soy egg and Asian long beans.
Squid Salad

Squid Salad

Ending the meal on a sweet note, we shared Taro Jasmine Ice Cream served with kaffir lime meringue, toasted milk and coconut crumble, and a pickled turmeric espuma.

The atmosphere is trendy but welcoming, its white-washed brick walls adorned with green plants and an actual record player spinning the sounds of everyone from Marvin Gaye to Pink Floyd. If you’re nice, they’ll even let you choose the record. Fun fact about the bathroom: the Beastie Boys are played on a loop as tribute to the group, who recorded their first album in the restaurant space in its former life as Rat Cage Records’ recording studio.

Chao Chao

Chao Chao

Halfway through dinner, Chef Brezinsky’s mother made an appearance, undoubtedly to oversee the creations that she inspired. Kimxuan Brezinsky — who grew up in Saigon when it was under French influence — lives in nearby Stuyvesant Town, started her son off cooking at age two.

His journey initially took him to Hollywood as a VFX artist, which he soon left to set up shop in a popular Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, where his authentic Bretagne Crêpes won the hearts of locals.

We’re glad he’s back in Alphabet City.

Chao Chao is located at 171 Avenue A between 10th and 11th Streets. Dinner is served Monday through Sunday 6:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

Downtown Magazine