Open for lunch starting today with dinner soon to follow, ChatÓ Brasseríe promises to be a local favorite for its upscale yet relaxed atmosphere and classically-inspired dishes with a modern-day twist.
"We took different parts of our travels as chefs, blended our favorites and put our twist onto them," said Alex Canale, who is originally from Memphis and has worked in cities from Charleston, S.C. to Scotsdale, Ariz. in his 11 years as a chef.
Business partner Chris Casteel, a Louisiana native and chef for 13 years, has worked in widespread locales with a diversity of culinary influences, including Hawaii, Texas and San Francisco.
The classically French-trained chefs first worked together in the kitchen of the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, Wy. from 2002 to 2005. Both moved on to other jobs in other locations, with Casteel eventually landing in Chicago and Canale in Charleston, S.C.
"Chris called me one night from Chicago with a little bit of liquid courage, and we started talking about moving somewhere and opening up our own restaurant," said Canale.
Since his mother was originally from Chattanooga, Canale suggested the city for their new venture.
"I had the opportunity to see the evolution of Chattanooga coming to the forefront as a destination city," he said.
Casteel and his wife jumped in the car and headed to Chattanooga, and six weeks later they came back and started looking at potential spaces.
Canale said their current spot was one of the first places they looked, but it didn't fit their original barbecue concept.
A year and a half later, they returned with a fresh idea, and the space seemed to offer the ideal blank canvas they could mold to fit their vision.
"We kept coming back to upscale food," said Canale, who along with Casteel had been cooking for four-star restaurants and resorts. "Chattanooga already has plenty of barbecue and we wanted to utilize our skills."
He said ChatÓ Brasseríe blends new American classical technique with modern innovation in an upscale yet casual setting.
Literally translating to "brewhouse" in French, the term brasserie is also used to describe a place people gather for food and drink, said Canale.
The menu is designed for diners to come in and order one or two courses, he said. While larger than tapas, portion sizes do not reach the mammoth scale of many chain establishments.
A popular entree with servers sampling the lunch menu is the Smoked Trout Salad topped with grilled Georgia peaches and blueberry croutons served with a citrus vinaigrette. Another favorite is the restaurant's version of a stuffed hamburger, which features house-made pimento cheese between two four-ounce patties with caramelized onions served on an onion boule.
Dinner entrees expected to be hits include the duck confit, which Canale describes as a great pairing dish with juicy seared duck breast and slow-braised confit duck leg for a full-on tasting of duck. He said the lamb will also draw attention on the dinner menu, which is served local stone-ground grits and gorgonzola croquettes.
Seating 108 inside and around 40 on the outdoor patio overlooking the Tennessee River, the restaurant also features a chef's table.
"[Diners] can come in and get a personalized tasting menu and sit right in the kitchen and interact with the chef," said Canale.
Customers call to make a reservation, at which point they go over any requests or non-requests and how many courses they would like.
"We create a menu for you, which may be tidbits of the regular menu tailored to your liking," he said.
ChatÓ Brasseríe is also developing an eclectic wine list and will offer more than 20 varieties by the glass.
ChatÓ Brasseríe is at One North Shore and can be reached at 305-1352. Free parking is available for customers.