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Newsday 2009


Photos | Food

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Latin Night

Lobster Bake

Wine Dinner

ZAGAT SURVEY 2016          Food 4.7     Decor 4.1     Service 4.6

Review Highlights - Diners “feel special” at chef Elmer Rubio’s hidden East Patchogue “treasure” buried within a “nondescript strip mall”, where his “awesome”, “creative” New American cuisine and a staff that “treats you as royalty” inspire some to call it “one of the great finds” around; “small” quarters and soft lighting foster “intimate” vibes, while popular prix fixe specials are less “pricey” options.

ZAGAT SURVEY 2012/2013          Food 27      Decor 21     Service 27

Review Highlights - “Star” chef Elmer Rubio crafts “marvelous” New American meals at this “exciting”, “Manhattan-type restaurant in a most unlikely location” in East Patchogue; once inside, you’ll “enter another world where one dish is better than the next” and they’re all “beautifully served” by a “considerate” staff that “makes you feel every day is a celebration”, so it’s always a “winner”.

ZAGAT SURVEY 2010/2011           Food 28      Decor 20     Service 26

Review Highlights - "Dining is nothing short of a magical experience” for ardent fans of the “artistic” New American fare by Chef Elmer Rubio that’s a “true treat for the palate" at this “surprising” “storefront extraordinaire” in East Patchogue; featuring a “wonderful” staff, “reasonably priced wine list” and prix fixe deals, it’s one of the “best bets” on the island.

ZAGAT SURVEY 2008/2009              Food 27    Decor 20     Service 23

Review Highlights - It’s a “miracle in a mall” proclaim acolytes of this “divine” New American hidden in an East Patchogue shopping center, where chef-owner Elmer Rubio turns out “consistently superior”, “creative and flawless food”; the “staff is a pleasure”, and the “simple” surroundings are “serene” enough to “encourage conversation”, plus you “can’t beat the prix fixe menu” ($38) from 5-6pm.

ZAGAT SURVEY 2005/2006

Review Highlights - "The secret is out", at this "quiet", simple, "family run" sophomore set; an "unexpected gem" it serves "excellent" New American specialties "beautifully prepared" and "uniquely presented", and delighted diners declare they "don't know what's better, the staff or the food".

P.S. "the three course early-bird special is a steal". 


Review - Never mind the shopping center setting, it’s the upscale new American fare with an international flare that lures locals to this small East Patchogue newcomer; chef-owner Elmer Rubio, formerly with the Mill River Inn and a native of El Salvador, draws on his Central American roots, creating enticing entrees like Chilean sea bass with coconut rice and rack of lamb with mushroom risotto.

NEWSDAY                                                             November 16, 2003


by Peter Gianotti

ASSESSMENT: Lively New American.

(Four stars mean outstanding; three, excellent; two, very good; one, good; none, fair or poor.)

In the unlikeliest location, Chachama Grill is predictably adventurous.

Thank chef-owner Elmer Rubio, who spurred appetites at Tupelo Honey and the Mill River Inn. He brings a shot of vibrant New American cooking to this shopping-center storefront.

Inside, the decor is spare enough to act as a frame for his artful portraits in food. The walls are a salmon hue, with some color photos suggesting vaguely Latin or southwestern locales.

For Rubio, these sites are merely starting points, as he goes on an ambitious multi-nation run, hopping over pizzerias and vaulting past takeout Chinese, in a diverting, enticing little star turn. His butternut squash bisque is the essence of autumn, with slices of pear and a swirl of cinnamon-spiked creme fraiche. Black bean soup benefits from lime sour cream and tomato salsa. Oysters Rubio are crisp and sweet, paired with sauteed spinach; lush, pan-seared sea scallops contrast with the crunch of refreshing jicama slaw. The slaw also goes with the plump crab cake finished with spirited lime-ginger-wasabi dressing.

That trio of ingredients jump-starts an otherwise standard crab-and-avocado salad. Ceviche of tuna arrives in a martini glass, accented with cilantro, shallots and mache. Very good. Cabrales cheese, oven-roasted pear, toasted walnuts and a walnut vinaigrette sweetly boost the baby spinach salad; goat cheese, bacon, cucumbers, peppers and a sherry dressing, the hearts of romaine.

Black linguine is tossed with shrimp, squid and chorizo sausage, in a tomato-cilantro broth that successfully spans a couple of continents. Spaghetti squash and artichoke hearts are the base for fine, grilled dayboat scallops in a gentle garlic and chanterelle cream. But blackened salmon shows no spark and is pretty routine. You're better off with the pan-roasted snapper, glossy with crab escabeche and parsley oil; or with the grilled striped bass, with celery root puree, crisp leeks and tomato broth.

Rubio grills a juicy pork chop, accompanied by sweet potatoes, a puree of plantains and pineapple chutney; and another with chickpeas, lemon zest, toasted cumin and tasso ham on roasted tomatoes. There's a lot going on, but it's all harmonious.

Grilled lamb loin is excellent, flanked by a potato gratin, roasted cipollini onions and asparagus. Likewise, the rosy grilled duck breast, fanned around a plate with grilled fennel, diced butternut squash, mushrooms and a red wine jus.

The grilled chicken, with grilled scallions and a mushroom-potato puree, is satisfying if not too exciting. And the grilled rib steak, with oven-roasted potatoes and barbecued shiitake mushrooms, is smoky and to the point. A mild risotto upstages the bland grilled veal chop atop it.

Desserts aren't Chachama Grill's highlights. The key lime tart dotted with blueberries is nearly soupy, and the plum-frangipane tart is dry. So's the hazelnut-molten chocolate cake. But chocolate mousse is a reliable finale. That goes for the fruit plate with mango sorbet, too.

Besides, at this stage of the meal, you're just happy that Chachama Grill has opened in the neighborhood. Service is sharp, earnest and accommodating; the ambience, warm. The restaurant has a lot of potential and is delivering early on.

Enjoy it now. And go back to see what happens next


NEW YORK TIMES                                                      November 23, 2003


By Joanne Starkey

The Chachama Grill is a find in every sense of the word. After dark, it takes the tracking skills of Natty Bumppo to uncover this East Patchogue newcomer. There was no illuminated sign, and we circled the Waldbaum's shopping center a few times before spotting a leftover grand-opening banner with the restaurant's name.

But there's nothing left over about the food. It made the search worthwhile and convinced us that we had discovered something special. Many of the other patrons were led there by friends eager to share their find.

They were all celebrating the talents of Elmer Rubio, the chef and owner of the Chachama Grill. The East Patchogue storefront is named for his hometown in El Salvador, but the food is not Latin American. The upscale American cuisine reflects the chef's experience in this country rather than his heritage. He worked under some of the Island's top toques at the Mill River Inn in Oyster Bay, Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, Clearwater in Massapequa, the Bookmark Cafe in Oyster Bay and Meritage in Bellport as grill cook and sous chef.

Mr. Rubio's success story began when he arrived in this country in 1989 and first worked as a dishwasher and culminated in his opening his own restaurant in 2003.

He has his priorities right, putting his resources into top-quality food rather than the décor. The dining room is pleasant but not lavish. The floor is tile and the pale brick-colored walls are a bit stark, punctuated only by framed photographs of various Latin American locales. The tables are well spaced and adorned with white cloths, fresh flowers, votive candles and long-stem glasses.

The staff is friendly and usually on the ball, refilling water glasses, bringing replacement silver and delivering food to the right diner.

After sampling every dish on the menu, I found none wanting. Take the butternut squash bisque, a seasonal cliché that usually tastes more like dessert than a savory. At Chachama Grill, it is a lush, creamy, not-too-sweet success with crème fraîche and a float of sliced pear.

Salads were marvelous melds of farm-stand fresh ingredients. Best were slices of heirloom tomatoes surrounding a mound of fluffy mizuna with wedges of buttery avocado and a balsamic reduction. The frisée salad, boasting creamy goat cheese, crispy bacon, julienned strips of cucumber and red pepper in a light sherry dressing, was nearly the other salad's equal. Even the simple house salad of baby organic greens in a shallot vinaigrette hit the mark.

Top seafood starters were twin crab cakes atop a jicama-mâche salad, a lovely martini glass piled with chunks of tasty tuna ceviche and the oysters Rubio. The last was a sextet of crisp, cornmeal-crusted oysters returned to their shells upon a bed of sautéed spinach and oyster fufu (a smooth mash of plantains and pumpkin seeds).

Mr. Rubio's experience as a grill chef was evident at entree time. The meats and seafood coming from his kitchen sported beautiful charred crusts and were running with juices. The flavor-packed Black Angus rib eye would do any steakhouse proud. It was accompanied by oven-roasted rosemary potatoes and a topper of barbecued shiitake mushrooms. Equally fine was the succulent veal chop escorted by a noteworthy wild mushroom risotto, crisp but tender asparagus and a whiff of white truffle oil. Crusty grilled chicken nestled upon perfect saffron rice doesn't get much better than this.

Seafood standouts included six beautifully grilled shrimp leaning against a hillock of purple Peruvian potato purée with a creamy Japanese black-bean beurre blanc drizzled on the plate; eight large pan-seared scallops alternating with halved artichoke hearts forming a necklace around spaghetti squash, all napped with a garlic-chanterelle cream sauce; blackened Maine salmon perched above a yummy scallion -studded potato purée; and Chilean sea bass over coconut rice with a mantel of red pepper sofrito.

Dessert was the equal of any other course. My favorite was the chocolate mousse: not airy nor pudding-like but three dense, delicious scoops served in a martini glass. The individual, round Key lime tart dotted with blueberries was appropriately tangy, and the hazelnut molten chocolate cake rich and gooey. The fruit plate of sliced mango, fresh pineapple and strawberries crowned with a scoop of mango sorbet and a raspberry coulis was a splendid light alternative.

ATMOSPHERE -- Simple storefront featuring stylish American food.

SERVICE -- Accommodating and attentive.

SOUND LEVEL -- Comfortable.

RECOMMENDED DISHES -- Butternut squash bisque, all salads, tuna ceviche, crab cakes, oysters Rubio, grilled chicken, rib eye, veal chop, scallops, blackened salmon, grilled shrimp, Chilean sea bass, all desserts.

WINE LIST -- The restaurant was awaiting its liquor license at the time of my visits. Free wine was served.

PRICE RANGE -- Lunch, entrees $7 to $13. Dinner, appetizers $6 to $12; entrees $20 to $32; desserts $6 to $7. Three-course early-bird available from 5 to 6 p.m. for $35 (includes all menu items except the veal chop).

CREDIT CARDS -- All the majors.

HOURS -- Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner, 5 to 10 o'clock every night.

RESERVATIONS -- Recommended.


REVIEWED BY THE TIMES -- Nov. 23, 2003.

RATINGS -- Extraordinary, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Fair, Poor. Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.

NEWSDAY                                                                  October 17, 2003


by Joan Reminick

Elmer Rubio, who came to the United States in 1989 from El Salvador, began his career as a dishwasher at Mill River Inn in Oyster Bay. Today, he is the chef-owner of the new Chachama Grill, open since July at 655-8 Montauk Hwy., East Patchogue, 631-758- 7640. During the early 1990s, Rubio worked under chef Michael Meehan, both at Mill River Inn and, later, as a grill cook at Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff. He went on to help Meehan open Clearwater in Massapequa and became sous chef at Tupelo Honey with executive chef Henry Barone after Meehan left. Over the next few years, Rubio worked as sous chef at the Bookmark Cafe in Oyster Bay and at Meritage in Bellport. At his own restaurant, which he describes as "American upscale," he puts Latin touches on menu items such as fresh linguine negro with shrimp, calamari, chorizo and a tomato cilantro broth and corn masa-crusted Chilean sea bass with coconut rice and red pepper sofrito.