Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Feb. 27
Lofty Aspirations at Chaplos Restaurant and Bar
Downtown restaurant was nicer than I'd expected...and a little snooty.
Chaplos is far enough removed from downtown’s hubbub that parking isn’t impossible, although the nearby pay lot ends up looking pretty good after a few trips around the block. The glass walled building’s colored lighting shifts along the color spectrum on a sort of timer and the deceptively small entryway reveals a long, L-shaped dining room with Gatsby-esque touches like Tiffany lamps and cloche-hatted women drawn on the windows. Too-loud house music isn’t very Roaring Twenties, but the white table linens and menus pinned to boards evoke the classy (some might say dated, I maintain otherwise) standards of dining appropriate to a supposed West Egg. While Chaplos isn’t a fine dining restau, its gaze is quite obviously pointed in that direction.
Peckish, curious, without reservations, and otherwise unaware of Chaplos’s lofty aspirations, I popped in for dinner feeling very underdressed. My reward was the worst seat in the house (which I accepted under the false assumption that they had a lot of reservations) and a degree of condescension during service. I doubt it would have been a problem had I made a reso, worn a jacket, and otherwise un-punked myself for the occasion; and that shouldn’t be the case.
Nevertheless, the food hit a few high notes during my meal. Tomato soup ($7) was simplicity itself, but the rich flavor, velvety texture, and generous portion were perfect for a cold evening. An eggplant pizza ($9) wasn’t described as such on the menu (the quasi-English menu copy was “grilled eggplant with prosciutto pears arugula blue cheese”), but the tender flatbread and and sense of restraint employed with the blue cheese delighted me equally.
Shrimp and ravioli ($18), while a visual treat, hit and missed. The shrimps were without flaw; plump, perfectly cooked, and joyfully basted with a delicate cheese sauce. The ravioli, however, had been stuffed with grainy ricotta (house made and poorly strained, perhaps?) and unceremoniously augmented with chewy hunks of sundried tomato. Why not put the tomatoes inside the pasta, where they belong, along with a little salt?
On the flip side, lamb chops ($18) were a beautiful dish. Putting potato chips on a lamb dish appealed to my sense of novelty (it helped that they were good) and the veritable sea of seductively sweet, perfectly piquant balsamic-mint glaze practically knocked me out. I like my chops rare, as opposed to medium, but with three, thickly butchered chops to swipe through that exceptional sauce I relished every bite.
I would have liked to see a more inventive dessert menu, as cheesecake and chocolate lava cake arouse tepid feelings from this ex-pastry chef, so I’d recommend spending those dollars on a glass of nice Port as they have some very old Tawny behind the bar.
925 B Street
M-Th 12-3, 5-11
Fri-Sat 12-3, 5-1:30