Rico Chow brings Hispanic-Asian fusion food to New London
New London — After finishing his mofongo for lunch at one of the five tables inside Rico Chow on Thursday, Bryan Marrero — who is Puerto Rican — said the dish was like "if my grandmother had suddenly moved to Asia."
It's a fitting compliment for the 2-month-old restaurant that bills itself as Hispanic-Asian fusion.
Marrero and friend Adam Bizar, visiting from Greenwich, said this was their first time there, but Marrero laughed that "we're already talking about coming back here for dinner." Bizar said his wonton soup and ribs were "absolutely amazing" – fresh, light and with just the right amount of salt.
David Santiago and Gerardo DeJesus — along with Santiago's wife, Angelys Vazquez — opened Rico Chow at 403 Williams St. in Hodges Square on April 15.
Santiago and DeJesus are both Puerto Rican, but the way Santiago describes the marriage of cuisines, he's the "Rico" and DeJesus is the "Chow."
DeJesus, 32, grew up in Massachusetts but moved with his family to Puerto Rico when he was 15, and lived there for a few years before working in Michigan, Florida, Massachusetts and now New London.
DeJesus liked the Chinese takeout food he got in Puerto Rico. He said he then became a cook in a Korean place and then a Thai restaurant, where he loved the diversity of the food and making things like lo mein noodles, coconut curries and stir fries.
He met Santiago about two years ago, when they were both working in Pink Basil in Mystic. Santiago said the two had the "same dream, same passion," and wanted to do something on their own.
Santiago, 33, grew up in New London; he lived in Florida for a few years but said "once you're in New London, you always come back."
He said he started in the restaurant industry doing dishes and worked his way up, working at multiple local restaurants, such as Somewhere in Time, David Burke Prime and Octagon.
He likes now being able to do something for the city that raised him, commenting, "We're cleaning up this area." He said they repainted the sidewalk and put new mulch outside, and that even just having two umbrellas up over picnic tables makes a difference.
Santiago said the most popular dishes are the mofongo, a plantain dish that's "very, very popular in the Hispanic community," and the signature Rico Chow dish, which includes fried rice, chicken wings and fries.
Another favorite is the Korean style loaded fries, which includes kimchi, BBQ sauce and spicy mayo, and a particularly good example of the fusion is the steam bun tacos. Other options include Pastelon stir fry, teriyaki chicken, pepper steak, bulgogi and potstickers.
Customers can place an order at the counter, order online at rico-chow.square.site or order for delivery on GrubHub or Seamless.
Santiago said that being in a low-to-middle-income area, he wants to give people something that is affordable but has a high-end feel. Most main options are between $9 and $13.
In the future, Santiago said he wants to participate in Eat in the Street, held the first Wednesday of the month in downtown New London throughout the summer, and to do a food truck.
"We're here, and we're here to make a difference," he said.
Business: Rico Chow
Where: 403 Williams St., New London
Owners: David Santiago and Gerardo DeJesus
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
Phone number: (860) 442-2469
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