With his newest restaurant opening, Edwin Zoe has something to say about modern Asian cuisine in America. “My approach is to really understand the roots of food,” Zoe says from inside Chimera, just off of Boulder’s Pearl Street, adding, “I hope people do not call us ‘fusion.’”
Zoe will open Chimera on Friday at 2014 10th Street. The sit-down dining room is located in the former Sushi Tora, next door to Zoe Ma Ma, a popular Chinese street food spot that Zoe opened with his mother in 2010. The pair went on in 2015 to expand Zoe Ma Ma to Union Station, and they briefly operated Ella, an American diner, in the current home of Santo.
As “Ma Ma” continues to run the street food business, Zoe is dipping back into his roots with Chimera. It’s a “hybrid beast” of his Chinese background and American upbringing, served now in an upscale setting. Zoe’s father was from northern China, where many of the country’s noodle dishes are popular. And his mother is from Taiwan, where rice dishes and xiaochi, or small plates, are common. When he was growing up in the Midwest, his parents owned multiple restaurants, including a Polynesian place with smoking tiki drinks and stereotypical decorations.
At Chimera, Zoe is acknowledging and bringing together his favorite parts of these varied traditions. “I would like to push the envelope and elevate the perception of Chinese food,” he explains. “It’s become like a commodity.” But he’ll also expand its borders to include Korean and Japanese specialties. His focus with Chimera is on the whole Pacific Rim. “It gives us a bigger palate to play with,” he adds.
With chef Corey Buck (formerly Blackbelly, Matsuhisa, and Flagstaff House) at the helm of the new kitchen, Chimera will offer a tight dinner menu composed of traditional takes on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes. “Little eats” consist of Shanghai’s xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, as well as bao buns, hamachi crudo, smashed cucumbers, and other vegetables.
The “big eats” consist of around seven main offerings, from jasmine tea-smoked chicken with baby bok choy and rice, to seafood soon dubu, a Korean hotpot with prawns and squid and “panna cotta-textured tofu” in fish stock. A chicken chow fun is elevated here with house-made rice noodles, a mixture of oyster, soy, and fish sauces, and fresh ginger, garlic, and scallion.
Zoe and Buck also will make ramen with their own noodles and broth bases. Although ramen was popularized in Japan, Zoe explains its origins in Chinese hand-pulled lamian noodles. “When I eat ramen, I can taste and understand the roots of it,” he says. “But it’s become its own (beast).”
In a nod to the Zoe family’s former restaurants, Chimera serves mai tai and shave ice cocktails alongside Kikusui saké, Suntory whiskey, Kung Fu Girl riesling, and other drink offerings. The restaurant will start out with a nightly dinner service and add weekday lunch and weekend dim-sum brunch later, as it “moves around the Pacific Rim” with its menu offerings. According to Zoe, “food is just as important as museums and architecture.”
Status: Chimera officially opens at 4 p.m. Friday at 2014 10th Street in Boulder. Dinner will be served from 4 to 10 p.m. nightly. Weekday lunch and weekend brunch services will start in May.