Fans of ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro will be happy to learn that executive chef and accomplished interpreter of Asian cuisine, Lon Symensma (along with managing partners Joe Vostrejs and Pat McHenry), is planning to open Cho77, a noodle house in the Baker neighborhood's already hot stretch of South Broadway. The 48-seat eatery will feature noodle bowls, dim sum and other Southeast Asian treats in the same row of storefronts as Beatrice & Woodsley, at 42 South Broadway.
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Symensma says he wants the new place to be a little less serious than ChoLon, with no reservations or valets and with a focus on what he calls "reinvigorated, fun interpretations" on classic Vietnamese, Malaysian and Thai noodle bowls. While ChoLon's menu is designed for sharing, he adds, it's hard to share a bowl of noodles, so the new place will give him a chance to offer a different style of food. He says that the name Cho77 is a fun take on the names of pho restaurants, which often feature lucky numbers -- not only is seven considered lucky in some Asian cultures, 1977 is the year he was born.
Although the chef is no stranger to China, Vietnam and Thailand, he's planning a visit to several countries to refresh his first-hand knowledge of the kind of food he plans to put on Cho77's menu. "It's hard to put my own twist on things unless I see exactly how they're traditionally made first," he says and adds that he'll be starting in Vietnam, led by a friend who's also a judge on Vietnam's version of Top Chef, and continuing on to Thailand, Malaysia and possibly Singapore.
Ryan Gorby, ChoLon's sous chef since the day it opened, will be taking in the tour as well, in preparation for his new role as chef de cuisine at Cho77. Symensma says that he's worked with Gorby for over a dozen years, bringing him to Colorado for the opening of ChoLon after several stints together at restaurants in New York. While he plans to spend considerable time in the new kitchen when it first opens, he has no doubt in Gorby's skills after so many years together.
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The atmosphere at the 2,000 square-foot eatery, says Symensma, will focus on energy and fun, aided by noodle-bar seating -- in front of an open kitchen -- that will take up over a third of the seats. Part of the fun, he adds, is that so many of the guests will be able to watch their food and drinks being made. Low banquettes will fill the remainder of the dining room. The ultimate goal is casual and affordable, with nothing on the menu over $20.