Di Long and her husband David Cho are the chefs for Chi Chinese & Sushi Bar, which Long describes as traditional Chinese with a modern twist. "Chi means positive energy," she says. The restaurant, which opened in May of 2015, is the Source Weekly's pick for Rookie of the Year. Though the restaurant may be just 11 months old, a lifetime of experience and family tradition is at the heart of its success.
Long, 39, is also the owner of La Magie Bakery and Café on Bond Street in downtown Bend, and her mother owns Szechuan Restaurant on Third Street, now in business for 23 years. The family moved to Bend 32 years ago when the population was just 20,000, and she graduated from Mountain View High School. "I grew up in a Chinese restaurant," she says, "I learned from my dad."
Chi, located at 70 NW Newport Ave., is by all accounts already quite a sensation, thanks to Long's experience and hard work. Between La Magie and Chi, she begins her day at 6 a.m. and goes until 8 p.m. most days, and until 10 p.m. on weekends. Chi opens at 4 p.m., Tues. through Sun., serving traditional Chinese dishes and sushi as well as wonderful desserts made by La Magie. The desserts are not Chinese, Long says, naming favorites that include crispy chocolate pie, shortcakes and sour dough fritters.
Chi is a family-supported business, with brother Howie Long designing the interior of the new restaurant. "It's comfortable with positive energy," says his sister, "not super fancy." It has an open and elegant feel that inspires a pleasant evening out with groups small or large, with ample seating and a large outdoor deck. The sushi chefs have the best view in town, she says, with the wall of windows across from the sushi bar facing the water. Parking is ample behind the restaurant, which shares the building with Journey Church.
The dishes are beautiful and quite delicious and the service is exceptionally friendly and polite. Expect a leisurely evening, as this is a dining experience, with sushi hand-crafted by chefs and each dinner made to order rather than prepared in advance. Long says Chi is bringing back what her father taught her. For Chinese New Year, Chi welcomed a group of people who Long says with a laugh "knows their Chinese food." On that day, Chi served fish from head to tail, though usually, the chefs take a more modern approach.
In the future, Long would like to add one day per month to do dim sum, traditionally served on small plates and in steamer baskets, carted from table to table. She is also considering a quarterly special seasonal dinner for important occasions, such as the Moon Festival or Cherry Blossom Festival.
On a recent spring day, Long sat down for a moment with a serene smile and a twinkle in her eye, knowing in the morning, she would surprise her 9-year-old daughter with a trip to Paris. They would be exploring the restaurants and bakeries of the famous French city for one week while her husband stayed home to take care of the business. Bend can look forward to many years of Chi in the future. "I think we will be here for quite a while," Long says.
Chi Chinese & Sushi Bar
70 NW Newport Ave., Bend
Tues- Sun: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.