NORTH HAVEN — Executive Chef Manuel Romero’s Spanish background may not be evident in Kala Bistro’s menu, but it is in the restaurant’s philosophy.
“To me, having as nice meal with the right friends at a table is one of the best ways of enjoying life,” Romero said. “That’s something that we take very seriously in our culture.”
Romero grew up in Spain and was interested in cooking at a very young age. He said his family is full of talented home cooks, and he learned how to cook traditional Spanish food from his mother.
Romero studied hospitality and management at New York City College of Technology and worked in restaurants in Manhattan until moving to New Haven and starting his own restaurant, Olea, which he and co-owner Maria Gonzalez opened about four years ago.
Romero experimented with global cuisines while working in different restaurants and learning about different cultures.
Kala Bistro’s menu is a smorgasbord of Italian, French, South American, and Asian dishes.
Some dishes even have multiple cultural influences in one.
“In the salmon dish, the garnish is more like American, then I use two different sauces — one is from Argentina, the other from Spain,” Romero said.
The bistro, 1995 Whitney Ave., strives for more of a neighborhood atmosphere than the fine dining experience at Olea, which is much more focused on Spanish cuisine.
The bistro is Romero’s chance to appreciate ingredients not traditionally used in Spanish dishes and experiment with recipes, which he says is something he loves about cooking.
“To me, it’s a waste being in a place that you have so many purveyors bringing ingredients from different cuisines…and not to get to work with them because they don’t fit in the Spanish cuisine,” Romero said.
Menu items range from bao pork belly, Spanish pork sausage, ratatouille lasagna, and a brisket burger. The bar offers a range of wine and beer, as well as unique cocktails made with fresh ingredients like ginger, lavender and grapefruit juice.
“I like to mix flavors and that’s what keeps me motivated... trying to match different flavors with different cultures,” Romero said.
Kala Bistro opened in October of 2017 and is open Monday through Saturday.