Let’s Talk Chop Chop!
Chop Chop Week is arguably one of the most exciting times for the restaurant industry and foodies in Saint John. All of the Uptown restaurants band together to create a week of fabulous meals for cheap, full of creativity with the hope of bringing customers back again. Many restaurants outdid themselves for this winter’s Chop Chop Week, which ran from February 20-26.
Saint John’s annual Chop Chop Week is inspired by that of New York City, where the concept originated. During hard economic times in the restaurant world, several New York chefs came up with the idea in order to boost business and experiment with new dishes all at the same time.
Here in Saint John, Chop Chop occurs in early spring and late fall, when tourism is at its lowest. So, if you missed it in February, be sure to check it out in the late fall. $1 from each Chop Chop plate goes to the Lunch Connection, which provides free lunch programs to youth around Saint John. All restaurants serve a Chop Chop appetizer plate for $10, a two course lunch for $13, and a three course dinner for $31. This gives customers the chance to try restaurants that, perhaps, they never would have thought to try or is normally out of their price range.
Many restaurants take on a theme for their Chop Chop menu, whether it be cultural (Saint John Alehouse executed a lovely Asian menu) or trying something new (Billy’s Seafood did not have any seafood on their menu).
Chop Chop Review: East Coast Bistro
My companion and I arrived at East Coast Bistro for our lunch reservation at 11am. Normally we would go a little later, but when I made the reservation a week earlier, all other times were booked, which is not unusual for many restaurants during Chop Chop Week.
We were the first table to come in for the day and were promptly seated by our server, Kyle. After having Kyle as a server previously, we were both pleased to have him look after us. He is friendly, attentive and a pleasure to chat with. Our table was adorned with fresh flowers, and cucumber ice water was brought to our table. My companion and I ordered the Chop Chop plate to split, and a two course lunch.
The Chop Chop plate arrived with our first course. The plate included three mushroom and leek empanadas with a simple garden salad and garlic aioli for dipping. The empanadas were divine, the mushroom and leek mixture was seasoned perfectly and surrounded by perfect empanada dough. It was an interesting fusion for me, as it reminded me of comfort food with an interesting twist.
Along with our empanadas, a creamy onion soup with potato chips and green onions arrived. Chips in soup must be a new trend, because Britt’s Pub also had chips in their Chop Chop soup – and, in my opinion, all soups should be topped with potato chips from here on out. They offered a great crunch that complemented the creamy texture. The soup was flavorful and seemed to have a hint of curry. A creamy onion soup was a delightful change from root vegetable soups that usually grace the winter Chop Chop Week menu.
“For every Chop Chop Week, [East Coast Bistro] likes to do a cultural sandwich for [their] second course of lunch,” Chef Kim explained when she came out to talk to us. She also explained that she “created her menu while on vacation in Portugal, and that’s where [she] got the idea for this winter’s sandwich.”
It was a Mexican Huarache sandwich. The slow roasted pork was cut instead of pulled, which was a nice change. There was an ample amount of black beans, creamy housemade queso, and charred cabbage slaw. The sandwich was huge! They offered such a great portion, but it was tough to finish after having the soup and empanadas. The sandwich was also served with a simple garden salad. The star of the sandwich, however, was definitely the bread. East Coast Bistro created a tortilla/pita hybrid that complimented the ingredients perfectly. It was an interesting change from the usual breads used.
I go to East Coast Bistro every Chop Chop Week, and I am never disappointed. This winter’s plates went above and beyond. Everything that they served was created with love and expertise that you can sense in every aspect of the plate. Chefs Tim and Kim are so thoughtful in their execution and have hired a great team to help produce their vision. From the simple salads to the house made cheese and bread, East Coast Bistro was the best restaurant to eat at this winter.
Ask the Cook is an 8-week segment by AbbyLee Cook. Abby has a diploma in Nutrition and Foodservice Management from the College of the North Atlantic and is currently in her third year studying Applied Management in Hospitality and Tourism. She is a trained cook who has worked under award-winning chefs in St John’s, Newfoundland. Abby has a passion for cooking and baking and enjoys educating her peers and younger generations about food and tourism. She also does custom-order baking in her free time. Any suggestions or questions relating to the culinary world can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.