“The higher you become as a restaurateur or a chef, the less time that you’re actually spending doing what you fell in love with doing in the first place, which was just cooking food!” says Executive Chef and ChoLon Modern Asian Founder Lon Symensma.
Rather than operate during the height of the stay-at-home orders, Symensma closed shop and spent hours in his own kitchen, really savoring his creations and the downtime. By May 14, however, Symensma and his team were more than ready to reopen the Eastbridge ChoLon for curbside service. “We have a very limited menu that we’re able to execute with just a few of us.”
Symensma says he and his staff are poised to take the restaurant into new and creative directions to succeed in the world of the coronavirus, including a possible brunch. “Dim sum brunch is something fun that right now you can only really get out on Federal, so I think that we’ll be able to elevate that and do something that’s really special.” Chef Michelle Xiao, who came to ChoLon after decades as a dim sum chef in New York, is “developing some cool dumpling ideas…we’re using this time as kind of R&D to work on fun new dim sum items,” says Symensma.
In light of the economic hardship so many people are experiencing, Symensma is adapting his menu, substituting chicken for duck or using different cuts of beef in a dish to offer lower price points. “I can adapt to be affordable, and I’m high-end enough and sexy enough that people are going to go there,” he says, referring to ChoLon and the three other restaurants he is a partner in. He anticipates seeing a more European approach when restaurants reopen for dining in, as people will choose to linger over meals while reconnecting.
Symensma is waiting for restaurant guidelines to be released at the end of May. He believes the large ChoLon patio will allow service at a socially safe distance, and he hopes to bring back more staff then. “We’ll be bringing people back slowly but surely. As far as our management, whom we’ve kept on health insurance this entire time, we’ve taken steps to keep the core team together.”
ChoLon’s menu changes with the seasons, so check the website for updates: https://www.cholon.com/stapleton/ Online ordering is available, or call 720-550-6934. Current hours of operation are Th-Sun, 5-8pm. ChoLon Stapleton is at 10195 E. 29th Dr.
Photos courtesy of ChoLon