La Chaya Bistro

We’re not restaurant reviewers.  You will never read a critique of a restaurant or a dish on Due Spaghetti.  Everyone’s tastes are different, and who are we to publicly criticize a meal that someone prepared for us?  In short, on Due Spaghetti we write about that which we like, but not that which we don’t like.

One of the places we like, a lot, is La Chaya Bistro, where we recently had an amazing dinner and conversation with chef and proprietor Juan Juarez Garcia.

Photo by by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

La Chaya opened in our neighborhood a few years ago, and we had been there a number times before.  We’re not frequent restaurant patrons – we love to cook at home, and our standards for authenticity are high.  Our list of favorite Twin Cities restaurants is selective, but  La Chaya earned a place on it right away.

by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

What attracted us the first time we went was that the predominantly Mexican menu had very obvious Italian influences.  We inquired, and learned that Chef Garcia had spent several years in Italy.  It was curious to find these traditional Italian pasta dishes prepared to perfection – some entirely authentic, others with the subtle incorporation of a Mexican ingredient or two.

by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

Last week, Stefano had a fettuccine with lobster meat, cherry tomatoes and wilted spinach, while Cara ordered fettuccine with lobster meat in a lemon-basil pesto with pecans.  We shared fried calamari and shrimp, over a bottle of Spanish Nora Albariño white wine.  Roasted sea bass was also was on the menu, as was carpaccio.  After finishing our seafood-based meal, we honestly considered ordering a carpaccio just to try it (how can you not order carpaccio when it’s on the menu?), but rational thinking prevailed, and we agreed that we could defer gratification until our next visit to La Chaya.   That will need to be soon, because we can’t stop thinking about that carpaccio.

by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

The meal itself was wonderful and just what we needed at the end of a very long day at work.  The evening became even better though, when Chef Garcia joined us at our table and we began a conversation about food, culture and hospitality.  Over Grappa di Barolo, Juan told us about the years he spent in Italy, first in Fiumicino, a sea-side town in the province of Rome, and later in Porto Cervo, on the northern shore of the island of Sardinia, along the Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast.

Alternating between Italian and English, we shared tales of food, travel and culture.  We laughed over the pungent smelling but delicious wheel of pecorino sardo that Juan brought home one day to his British landlord’s dismay, applauded his persistence and eventual success in getting Sardinians to try cactus leaves, and shared opinions on the best way to drink Campari.

by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

Juan, originally from Mexico City, spoke about the different ways Italians and Mexicans prepare seafood and meat, and the different spices they use to season food.  While discussing the good cooking and overall hospitality of the Italian family that hosted Juan when he first arrived in Italy, and chuckling over menu items that more conservative diners are slow to embrace, the evening’s theme began to unfold for us.

The food experience and the client relationship are what matter.  The culture of food, of enjoying a meal prepared with care, is too often absent from the modern-day North American experience.  At La Chaya, Juan not only offers his guests exceptional meals that reflect his Mexican heritage and Mediterranean experience, but in doing so he also shares with them his deep appreciation for hospitality and the culture of food.

by Skye McLoughlin-Kopfmann and David Kopfmann. Visit them at 400photography.com.

La Chaya Bistro
4537 Nicollet Ave S.
Minneapolis 55419
612-827-2254

See La Chaya’s profile on Open Table, and read patron ratings and reviews.

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6 Responses to La Chaya Bistro

  1. Carrie says:

    We just went here for the first time and absolutely loved it. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on other restaurants in the area. Thank you!

    Cheers~
    Carrie

    • duespaghetti says:

      So glad to hear that, Carrie! We just drove by La Chaya the other day and thought to ourselves that it’s been too long since we’ve stopped by. We aren’t frequent restaurant reviewers, but when we find a spot we love we’ll definitely share it with our readers.

  2. Caroline Constant says:

    Alas the quality of food at La Chaya Bistro has fallen dramatically with the recent departure of chef/co-owner Juan Garcia. The menu items are still his concoctions, but they just aren’t the same without his touch. Only the tacos seem worth ordering. Very very sad loss for the Minneapolis restaurant scene.

    • duespaghetti says:

      We hadn’t realized that Juan had left La Chaya. We were there most recently in late summer/early fall, and he was still there then. Hopefully we will eventually hear news that he is preparing delicious food at a different Minneapolis restaurant!

      • Caroline Constant says:

        I don’t want to post this, but the sad truth is that Juan lost his ownership in the restaurant to his wife in a divorce, and they brought in a new manager who seems to know little about cooking. Juan is working at some food advisory place, but I don’t think he will easily find the backing to open another restaurant. This happened in October, according to Christian, who is still working there.

  3. duespaghetti says:

    Oh gosh. We wish Juan the best!

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