Even though we’re both Italian, if we had to narrow down our favorite cuisine it would undoubtedly be Latin American. Whether it’s ceviche, lomo saltado, rope vieja, mofongo, arepas, tacos, and so on, we just can’t get enough. So you can only imagine how much we’re drooling here as we fantasize about the menu at Aji 10, a brand new Latin restaurant at the border of SoNo and East Norwalk, located at 10 Wall Street.
Opened just a few weeks ago on January 23, the former sous chef at Paloma and Executive Chef at Baang and Splash, Chef David Soto, has created a killer menu that features Latin American foods and Nikkei, a popular fusion cuisine of Japanese and Peruvian you can’t find anywhere in Fairfield County. Not only that, but Aji 10 also brings the first-ever (that we can think of) Pisco bar to the SoNo dining scene, which features the much-loved spirit in Peru and Chile. So, what’s Chef Soto’s story, what makes him an awesome addition to SoNo, and what are some of the best dishes to order off the menu? Take a look . . .
1) In addition to being sous chef at Paloma, what are some other places that you’ve worked at?
I started my culinary career in Venezuela, when I used to own my own restaurant. Then, after that I moved to the U.S., I was the head chef at Splash in Westport for 18 years. After Splash I became the head chef at Baang Café at both locations in Greenwich and Woodbury. From Baang I was one of the chefs at an Italian restaurant called Grissini, from there I was the head chef at Cactus Rose, and after that I was one of the sous chefs at Paloma in Stamford. And, now I’m back full circle to owning my own place here in Norwalk.
2) What made South Norwalk a great spot for you to start a restaurant?
The reason why I chose Norwalk to open Aji 10 is because it’s my hometown to begin with. Also, everyone is used to going to either SoNo or Stamford for all the cool, hip places, and I felt like it was time to bring something different to the area and also to expose not just my style of cooking, but also highlight other great hidden gems around the area.
3) Your menu focuses mainly on Latin American cuisine. What’s your approach to showcasing dishes from across the continent?
My approach to showcasing dishes from other countries is to utilize everything I have learned from culinary school and my previous experiences working with other great chefs. After I take all of that, I plan to put a twist on it and make my own version of it.
4) Your use of Nikkei is refreshing and one of the firsts, if not the first-ever, here in a Fairfield County. What exactly is Nikkei and why did you want to feature it?
Nikkei is the result of the fusion of the two ancient and extraordinary cuisines, the Japanese-Peruvian sensation, wrapped in Peruvian tastes, culture, and tradition.
5) CT also has plenty of beer and wine bars, but the idea of a Pisco bar is unique. What is your restaurant’s approach to the liquor program?
Just as I’m introducing a whole new concept of culinary style from my country, I would also like to introduce a great spirit from Peru which is the Pisco. The idea is to offer some well-known Pisco cocktails such as the Pisco Sour, and also get a little creative and make other great famous cocktails, but using Pisco as the substitute, star spirit.
6) What was it like opening your own spot for the second time?
Being my second time opening my own restaurant makes me really excited. Now I am more mature, and have been traveling all over to gather more experience and knowledge. This way, I have a better vision on how I would like my business to run and also how can I provide the best service and best quality of food to my guests.
7) What has the reaction from customers and the city been?
So far we have been receiving great compliments from our guests, and that is because they are not used to seeing a Latin style restaurant that also offers them sushi with both Asian and Latin twists. Most guests at first find it odd to see this type of fusion, but once they try the food and the drinks, then they feel satisfied. We’ve already started to have regulars in which makes me very happy that they like my cooking and appreciate my work.
8) What are some of the most ordered dishes?
Since the day we opened, I noticed that the most popular choices from our guests are: Anticuchos, Ceviche, the Latin sushi, Calamari Salad, and Arepas. For the dessert choices I would have to say they prefer the Caribbean Banana and Coconut Roll also the Fried Ice Cream, even though it’s been so cold outside lately.
9) What is the significance of the 10 in Aji 10?
“Aji” means chile pepper in Spanish; it can be used to name any type of pepper in the chile category such as: Aji Amarillo, Aji Panca, Aji Brazilian Starfish, and Aji Caballero just to name a few. The number 10 means our location since we’re located 10 Wall Street.