Why stop at weaving imported Valrhona chocolate into bon bons and cakes when the beloved treat can punch up cocktails, French fries, and seafood as well?
Pastry chef turned restaurateur Santosh Tiptur has made a career out of weaving chocolate into everyday dining. He got the ball rolling a decade ago at Co Co. Sala, the boutique eatery he planted in Penn Quarter, and has now built upon that momentum with Conche, the family-friendly restaurant he opened in May 2017 in Leesburg, Virginia. In addition to operating a glass-enclosed chocolate lab on-site (1605 Village Market Boulevard), both the kitchen and the bar at Conche tuck chocolate into everything they serve.
Here’s five takeaways from the Conche kitchen:
- The chocolate-Calabrian chile sauce he makes to accompany his rosemary-Parmesan French fries is composed of tomato paste, hot peppers, Dijon mustard, vegetable stock, 64 percent dark chocolate, cream cheese, craime fraiche, caramel sauce, and assorted spices. Tiptur says customers have asked him to bottle it.
- Tiptur produces nearly two dozen different types of chocolate bon bons at Conche, including four made with wine. He currently partners with three local wineries, one cidery, and one distillery to varying degrees (some just sell his stuff while other collaborate with him on specific items).
- The top selling dish at Conche is cacao nib-crusted scallops served on a bed of cocoa-infused black beans. “People can’t believe it,” he says of the flavor combinations.
- A tuna poke dish features crumbled chocolate tuile studded with pumpkin seeds.
- The Conche Entremet dessert features dark chocolate cake, four types of chocolate cream, three types of ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, and caramel), chocolate shavings, a graham cracker, and caramel sauce encased in a chocolate sphere that is engulfed in flames tableside. Per staff, as soon as one leaves the kitchen — it’s delivered to customers on a golden cart — the orders pour in for encore performances (they recently sold seven in a night).