A SYMPHONY OF FLAVORS: GALLOP BISTRO, 793 U.S. 202 N., BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (908) 210-9161.
Philip Glass is undeniably world-famous as the greatest composer of Minimalist and Classical music of the current period. A prodigy, Glass entered The University of Chicago at 15 years of age as a Mathematics and Philosophy major. Modernist music claimed him, and after a few years in Paris living a Bohemian life, he entered Juilliard to formally study composition. His output includes Operas, musical theatre pieces, 10 symphonies, 11 concertos, chamber music, sonatas, and film scores. It is, however, unknown if he enjoys Chinese Cuisine.
What do Modernist Music, Philip Glass and the brilliant food and beautiful setting of Bridgewater’s “Gallop Asian Bistro” all have in common? The proprietor and artist Jack Yang.
It was this great Modernist musician who brought Jack Yang to the United States.
Our friend Jack Yang is the principal owner of Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater. To those of you who haven’t been, Gallop is the fabulously beautiful Asian-Fusion restaurant occupying what had been a pancake house on Northbound Rte. 202, two miles South of the Somerville circle.
I recently sat with Jack to try to come to grips with the connection between Philip Glass and this great restaurant.
Q: O.K. Jack, I give up – how did Philip Glass lead to Gallop?
A: Not in a straight line for certain. Growing up in China, my passion was music. I studied at a Classical Chinese Conservatory, was exposed to Glass’s music and became convinced that his was the way of the future and the musical current I needed to follow. Although I was a passionate devotee, I realized that it was not possible to pursue Contemporary Modernist music in China. I was fortunate enough to earn a grant from the Brooklyn Conservatory and came to the United States to pursue my dream. I naively assumed that because Glass was American, living in New York, that Modernist music must be huge here. I planned and dreamed to make my future in this great Country composing Contemporary music. Only after I was here did I realize there was only one Philip Glass and not even he profited from the most avant garde of his work. If I was going to prosper, I needed to readjust my perspective.
Q: But how did learning that Modernist Music was not your future lead to white tablecloth Classical Asian dining?
A: Again the path was not straight forward. My cousin was a very successful businessman. Starting from a single location, he built the largest chain of Chinese restaurants in the country, Panda Express. You probably know, the concept is Chinese fast food with many locations in the food courts of regional shopping malls. One day my Cousin asked me if I was profiting. I confessed my failure to succeed and my doubts about my musical dreams. He urged me to come and work for him. I really didn’t know anything about business but determined to learn and succeed. I joined him. Within two years, I had obtained my own Panda Express franchise and was able to begin to succeed.
Q: But Panda Express is fast food, Gallop Asian Bistro is anything but fast food, how did this come to be?
A: You should realize that almost all Chinese men are taught to cook the classic dishes of their region. Knowing what classical Chinese food is, and realizing that Americans were generally only being served a poor shadow of real cooking, I saw an opportunity. You can probably visit a thousand Chinese restaurants in Central New Jersey. Invariably if you look closely you will see they are fast food places. The chefs are not educated in hygiene, not taught classic techniques, not schooled in consistency. The restaurants are most often in older strip malls with low rents, cracked linoleum floors, filthy in the back and the food dosed with MSG and other salts. My cousin’s genius in Panda Express was in remedying the hygiene issues and siting his restaurants in high-rent Malls. Then he focused Panda Express on consistency. But like the other fast food restaurants, he had to focus on simple dishes in an emotionally barren Mall landscape. It is not classical Chinese cooking, It is an American/Chinese stew. Good, but that concept leaves no room for truly great.
When I first came to America, I first thought that Americans just must not like real Chinese food. I soon realized, that most Americans had just never experienced Classical Chinese cuisine
I was convinced that there was a real potential to bring great cooking, and an upscale dining room to market. I conceived of Gallop Asian Bistro and with my partners, resolved to create a gourmet authentic Asian-Fusion restaurant with the highest standards. We insist of the freshest of ingredients. Each order is created at the time of dining. I try to personally see and approve each dish before it is served. I insist on the highest standards of hygiene. I oversee the continuing education of my chefs.
Q: I understand your commitment to quality ingredients, fresh produce, classical techniques and flavors and consistency, but does all of that really require a setting as beautiful and comfortable as you have built here at Gallop?
A: Yes. I needed to embrace Chinese culture to create authentic Chinese food. Authentic food requires patience in the kitchen. The food, the dishes are meant to be enjoyed intellectually as well as through the senses. A great Chinese meal, as is true of all great cuisines, is not just to fill the stomach. Great food, like great wine, is meant to be savored and discussed. The meal is when family and friends come together. When important issues are decided in China, it occurs around the table. When friendship and family values are shared, it occurs over meals. In America, life moves so quickly, it is difficult to capture the serenity and peace needed for fine dining. We can’t do that in a loud Mall or grimy strip center. We needed to create an oasis of peace. The environment of Gallop is designed to promote peace and tranquility even during meals cut short by the pace of life. I am careful with the background music as well as with the perfection of each dish. The culture of Gallop is the final differentiator with lesser Asian-themed restaurants. Our culture is authentic, beautiful and delicious.
Q: You recently brought into Gallop a general manager, not Chinese, not trained in Classical Chinese Cuisine, who does not even speak Chinese, how does that advance the Gallop plan?
A: (Laughing)…To answer that question you only need to look around. My clientele is almost 80% Asian. Part of that is their appreciation of the authentic nature of the cooking. Part of that is their embrace of patience- sharing food and time with friends and family. But we are in Central New Jersey. I always understood that my initial clientele would be significantly Asian, that was inevitable. But at the same time my concept was to reach out to Americans and to introduce them to the highest levels of Asian dining. I am now American. My children are American. I needed to sharpen my focus to reach and satisfy my American friends and clients. Hiring Ed Scott was the first step in reaching that native market.
Q: How did you pick Ed?
A: Ed Scott brings to Gallop exceptional skills and the attitude I require. He has been in the restaurant business for more than thirty years, as a Chef, a Wine Steward, a Server and as an entrepreneur. He may not be yet experienced with Asian Cuisine, but, more importantly, he knows great food, great service and the ins and outs of doing business in a high-end white tablecloth environment. More than these skills and experience, however, Ed Scott shares my enthusiasm to create something great and unique and ultimately lasting. Like any great Chef, Musician or other artist, he has the passion to be brilliant.
[A Note from the Unionville Wine Impressario: When I first agreed to write about the great restaurants offering Unionville Wines, I made it clear that lacking restaurant and cooking experience, I would not be comfortable attempting to actually critique the food offered. This restraint is particularly true with Asian cuisine where, other than my experience with fast food Chinese and occasional Thai offerings, my experience is zero. I do, however, need to remark that although I lack standards with which to judge as ambitious an undertaking as is Gallop, this restaurant and the food are brilliant. The taste, the colors, the presentation, the ambiance of this restaurant is unlike anything else I have experienced. This is the type of restaurant wherein Unionville wines can really shine. Another word: although the food and ambiance are entirely worlds apart from most, the value, fair, even generous, pricing is also shocking. Visit soon.]
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Desk or vineyard? This is the question I asked myself when making the leap of faith to leave my corporate life behind to pursue my passion for wine. After working in the medical communications space for 10 years, 2022 was the year of epiphany. It may sound old fashion, but I did have a major realization in the beginning of the new year that I was not meant to work behind a desk and chug along doing work that I was no longer passionate about.
My first notion of my interest of wine came during my frequent business trips to Boston about 4 years ago. For the first time I was immersing myself in the world of wine through client dinners, networking events and a lot of self-exploring through Beantown. During this time was my first encounter with sommeliers and wine experts. I was fascinated and intrigued by the expertise knowledge of wine, wine making and learning about the intricacies that goes into producing a bottle of wine. At this moment, I thought about how amazing it was to witness such passion for the craft of wine.
I enrolled in an online sommelier level one course at the Wine School of Philadelphia and began studying and reading everything I could about wine. This is where my 2nd major epiphany happened – I asked myself, the question that I stated in the beginning “desk or vineyard?”
This is the question that started the major stepping stone to my journey. I no longer wanted my wine passion to be in the background – I wanted to be 100% committed and both feet in. Unionville Vineyards was the first winery that popped into my head when I thought about making my “9:00- 5:00” switch. I attended a wedding at Unionville the year prior and loved the atmosphere, the wine and the people. The position that I applied to was half farm work half hospitality. I was instantly attracted to the idea of being out in the field to where it all begins in wine making. Thoughts of my “office” transforming into the beautiful vineyard was something I desired. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Unionville has multiple vineyard sites with the Coventry site located within Coventry Farm in Princeton being my favorite (love the views there!) Working at the different sites allows you to see how the different micro climates, soil and land impact the vines and fruit cluster growth. Also working in the field to me was the perfect learning opportunity to understand the craft of wine making soup to nuts. Being surrounded by vines that produced grapes such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay was eye opening to me. I was so used to seeing the finished product of these grape varietals in their bottled form, but actually being able to perform farming techniques on the vines starts to create another level of perspective and appreciation for wine.
One of my favorite farming tasks to perform in the field on the vines is leaf pulling. Leaf pulling is when you remove leaves from around the fruit clusters. The rule of thumb is to remove leaves that are across and below from the fruit cluster. Removing the leaves creates oxygen flow, openness for pesticides to be sprayed and exposes the fruit to more sunlight. I enjoy seeing the satisfying result of a perfectly balanced vine with the right number of leaves removed. Working in the field creates a huge bond between you and your other field peers. You become a family unit and learn how to work together and communicate as a team. To me, this is a very important factor for having a successful vineyard. My experience with people at Unionville in general has been amazing. You have the opportunity to interact with people from all different backgrounds (teachers, college, corporate, etc.) which makes for some great conversations and comradery.
To anyone reading this, do not be afraid to follow your passion and take a chance on doing what you want to ensure your happiness. It was scary to make such a drastic shift from corporate to farm work, especially since the two are extremely opposite ends of the spectrum, but I have no regrets and I am happy with where my career and focus is going.