This past week was Cincinnati Independent Restaurant Week. A group of Cincinnati restaurants that are locally owned and operated each offer a three course tasting menu for $25.08. It's not an incredible deal, but it was a good excuse for Erin and I to try a new restaurant in the area. She will be posting her experience separately, to talk about her choices on the tasting menu.
We considered our many choices and all the Jean-Robert restaurants sounded good. Jean-Robert is a local French chef who runs several restaurants in the Cincinnati area. Neither of us have been to any his restaurants, but he has a reputation as one of the most refined chefs in the area. His flagship restaurant is Jean-Robert at Pigall's. But, they weren't offering the restaurant week special, so we decided to go to one of his newer ventures: Chalk Food + Wine.
The concept of Chalk is comfort food with a fine dining flair. Regardless of the food and the menu, the atmosphere as you walk in to Chalk is modern and fun. The front of the restaurant is a sleek wine bar with several high top tables. We were sat in the back dining room, and got a glimpse at a small rear patio, which I'm sure would be fun in the summer. There was certainly a casual and cool feel to the menu and the wait staff, who were dressed in t-shirts and jeans. The menu was separated into familiar categories with different names: Starters, Hand Food (sandwiches), Eat Us (entrees), Friends (sides), and Sweets.
We decided on an appetizer, calamari steak prepared two ways, to supplement the modest tasting menu. The duo was a nice start to the meal. The first was more of a traditional calamari- breaded and fried with tangy tomato-based sauce. As a "steak" it was a little thicker and tougher than I like, but still great flavor. The second presentation was a salad of onion, cucumber and carrots in some sort of Asian type of sweet and sour dressing. There were some big chunks of calamari and the dish was very fresh and flavorful.
For my first course, I chose the barbecue chicken and sweet pea salad. It was as elegant as fried chicken and peas could be presented. There was a small piece of fried chicken placed on a neat pile of green peas. It was topped with a little barbecue sauce and a delicious onion ring. The highlight of the dish was a garlic puree. It was a mild, with the flavor of roasted whole garlic cloves and went really well with the peas.
My main course was lamb porterhouse. It was a small piece of lamb leg, complete with bone. It was cooked perfectly, just barely medium with a simple salt and pepper seasoning. It was served with some mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. The natural juices of the lamb and mushrooms made for a great sauce and a hearty dish.
My dessert was a peach bread pudding. It was served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. I'm a big fan of bread pudding and it was a nice finish to the meal.
Just glancing at the regular entrees and the rest of the menu, the prices seemed very reasonable. The atmosphere was modern, but still relaxed, and it is in an underrated part of town- Covington. Great service and very good food, made for an overall very pleasant experience. I don't know if its the place to go for gourmet fair, but for your favorite comfort food with some flare at a unique place, Chalk Food + Wine is great choice.
Grade: A -