Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 2: John Ly of Strata Restaurant

Today we continue our chat with Chef John Ly of Strata Restaurant, discussing what's in a name and the challenges that come with running a restaurant in the 'burbs.

EOW: So let's talk about the restaurant. What does the name Strata mean to you?

Ly: To me, "strata" means different layers, which is what I try to work into the food. The inspirations for my menu are really the things I've taken from my career and the places I've worked. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant but have worked at a wide variety of restaurants. I've been exposed to a lot of different things, and that's what I want to reflect in this restaurant by having a diverse menu with different flavors from different regions of the world.

EOW: Because you're located in the suburbs, do you find there are limitations to creating a diverse menu?

Ly: Well, I talk to a lot of my guests to see what they like or don't like. I take their opinions and run specials to see what works. We introduce things slowly and try to educate the public to what we're trying to build. That way we can get a good feel about what they want out here. Some things we thought would be popular weren't, while other things we weren't sure about turned out to be a hit.

EOW: So how long do you think it'll be before you truly know your market out here?

Ly: It'll take a year for us to know the people out here. We'll have to go through the seasons to learn what people will eat, what they'll try, and what they're not interested in at all.

EOW: Fill in the blank for me: I love customers who *blank*.

Ly: I love customers who experience new things. I like to offer new creative menu items, but sometimes they're never given chance.

EOW: Tell me about a dish that you had high hopes for but didn't really fly and ended up being a disappointment for you.

Ly: One dish that I thought would be more popular was our seven-spice braised short ribs. I thought it would be more popular because it was essentially your meat-and-potatoes kind of dish. The people who actually ordered it loved it. But getting people to order it was a challenge. I think it was the seven spices that made people hesitant to try it. Well, it's actually more than seven spices. It's a family recipe that I make with my father. So it was kind of a personal disappointment that it didn't do as well as I had hoped.

Tomorrow we'll showcase Ly's delectable dishes and discuss the strata in each.

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Tam Vo
Contact: Tam Vo