Unique, cheese-themed restaurant opens in New Haven

NEW HAVEN --  New restaurants have been opening with regularity in New Haven recently, but none like the one celebrating its grand opening Wednesday.

Au Chalet, the newest addition to the Whitney-Audubon Retail & Arts District, transports customers to the Swiss Alps with decor and a simple menu.

"The main dishes are raclette and fondue," said Adil Chokairy, the owner, who noted raclette is a type of swiss cheese.

The wheel of raclette is cut in half, then slowly melted and brought to the customers' table.

"Raclette serving is with cornichons and potatoes and pickled white onions and then we scrape the cheese over the dish," said Chokairy.

In the fondue, various interesting cheeses and complementary ingredients.

"We have fondue with bolete mushrooms," Chokairy said. "We have fondue as well with champagne. We have fondue with shallots. We have fondue with truffles."

There's only one rule he has for customers who choose fondue.

"If you lose the piece of bread, you have to pay a bottle of wine for everybody," he said, smiling

Chokairy peddled his way into the restaurant business three years ago, on the Yale campus, making crepes on a cart.

On his first day, within one hour, he said he was sold out and said "That's not what I imagined."

Nor was owning crepe and cheese themed restaurants next door to one another in such a short time frame. But, his most important belief is why he is rapidly ascending.

"The customer, he or she, is the owner. Not me. I'm here just to translate a need," said Chokairy.

Au Chalet, at 24 Whitney Ave., is open for lunch and dinner every day.