Monday, March 17, 2008

Erase that, let’s go to Chalk for Restaurant Week

I’ve lived here long enough to embarrassingly admit I hadn’t tried any of Jean Robert’s restaurants until last week, two weeks ago. With the new opening of Lavomatic couple weeks ago, I’ve lost count, but I think he’s up to owning or partnering in at least 37 restaurants in the area. With restaurant week in full swing, the husband and I made reservations to Chalk.

Clearly, this review is long overdue.


At first glance, the restaurant looks fun. They’ve carried the chalk and board theme throughout. After locating the place, we drove around couple times to find a spot. The parking’s eh. It’s on the streets of Covington or behind the restaurant in a reserved lot. I am not sure who has the privilege of parking behind a restaurant but the husband eventually gave up and parked in a reserved spot.

Surprisingly, the restaurant is long and narrow. I liked how they utilized the space, seating bar patrons near the entrance on the left and smaller tables for two on the right. We sat in the back, main, dining room. In our dining room, I noticed a massive “thing” hanging down from the ceiling. It looked nice and was part of their fabulous décor, I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Thanks to Stephanie, I now know it is garlic. When a restaurant uses garlic as part of the décor, it’s apparent they are creative and funky at the same time.

After a quick glance at the Restaurant Week menu, we knew our picks for the night. For drinks, we ordered a Pomegranate Fizz and the Classic Martini. They arrived promptly and were delicious. The Pomegranate Fizz was so good I could have easily drunk couple if I didn’t have work the next day.

For first course, he ordered a Barbeque Chicken Salad and I got the potato salad. The server misheard and brought celery root and roasted corn soup instead, when we mentioned the error, she quickly apologized removed the soup from our table and brought the chicken salad. Presentations were marvelous. After the first bite, I was ecstatic I ordered the potato and beet salad. The potatoes weren’t overcooked or mushy, a big plus for potato salads. And the beets added an interesting dimension. The chicken salad with a slight sweet barbecue sauce was delightful; we both agreed, the sweet peas were an unnecessary addition to the salad.

For main course I ordered a Lamb Porterhouse and he got the Scallops. My lamb was succulent and tender. The first bite was of the fattiest piece, heavenly. It came with mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and gravy made from the fatty lamb juices. This dish hit the spot for my craving of juicy piece of lamb and mashed potatoes. His scallops were perfect; well done and moist. I’ve attempted to cook scallops at home without success; this dish sets the bar on cooking scallops. We were both unsure about the Israeli couscous with the scallops. The couscous was flavorful but firm to the bite, maybe too firm. Since we’re both Israeli couscous virgins, we just don’t know. Is that how it’s supposed to taste?

For dessert we ordered the double chocolate cupcake and peach bread pudding. One word for both: divine. I never opt for bread puddings but I am glad I did at Chalk. For me this bread pudding ranked high in both presentation and taste. The cupcake was doused with chocolate, probably swam in it for hours before it was baked.

We appreciate how the restaurant maintains the playful vibe with the name, décor and menu. Unfortunately, we also noticed many men in their suit jackets and women in their grown-up dresses. Although there is nothing wrong with that, we are inclined to return to restaurants that are relaxed and don’t require anything more than jeans and tennis shoes. As a self proclaimed food critic and future food-related business owner, I believe there is a fine line between sophistication and stuffiness. Once a restaurant crosses that line, it’s hard to revert and attract regular restaurant-goers. I recognize Chalk is trying hard to balance on that fine line.

Our overall experience at Chalk was good. Although we (the husband, especially) were disappointed by their small portions, the food was fantastic as was the service. After many years in the business, Jean Robert has high expectations of his restaurants and staff; and both hit the mark at Chalk. I plan to go back for dinner with some girlfriends to try food off their regular menu, hope for larger portions and more importantly hope Chalk convinces me that everyone’s welcome.

By the way, we didn’t get ticketed or towed for parking in a reserved spot. (Park at your own risk.)


Chris S said...

Hard to say from your description whether the couscous was truly "right" but as measure of the appropriate level of firmness, it should be approximately the same firmness as a truly al dente pasta. The exterior should be mildly softer than the interior, and none should be hard are have any real "snap" to it. It should however be dense and firm.

liberal foodie said...

Chris, thanks for the great description. I can't recall precisely but at the time I thought it was a little too firm. I'll have to make it at home or try it again to know for sure.