"When you eat a good meal it makes you happy."
- Chef Salil Mehta
No matter how far we get from home, food will always remind us where we came from. This was especially true for the first Chinese immigrants coming to India to build the railroads. These Hakka Chinese formed small social clubs to unite and bond in their new country. One of these clubs was The Chinese Club whose culinary tradition lives on in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In their cozy restaurant which opened only in March Stacey Lo along with her husband, Chef Salil Mehta serve up cuisine mixed with both Chinese and Indian culture.
Their goal according to Mehta is to “deliver you something you can’t get elsewhere”. I found this especially true of the main course I indulged in, the Szechwan Chutney Vegetable. The history behind this dishes' perfect harmony of spiciness is fascinating. As Mehta explained, the Hakka Chinese brought Szechwan style cuisine into India. However, Indian’s typically enjoy the “burn your tongue hot” in comparison with the Chinese whose spice is more “numb your mouth hot”. These opposing preferences led to this dish being adapted to the Northern Indian palate by inventing a Szechwan sauce with no Szechwan peppercorn.
The preservation of culture through food is always on Mehta’s mind. His ingredients marinate a wonderful connection between Indian and Chinese seasonings, where he finds a “different depth with Indian and Chinese sauces”. His ability to take the common Chinese cuisine beyond the stereotypical is a refreshing find. Authenticity is important to Mehta, what you eat in their restaurant will be the same as you'd find if you went to India.
To find something unique, but strangely familiar which marries taste and freshness take a chance on The Chinese Club next time you're in town.