Monday, January 28, 2008

Chambar (January 25, 2008)

Four reviewers: ts, js, csc and cw

I've never been to Chambar but have always wanted to go. I've only heard good things about it.

The place was huge! (Well, relatively huge.) It was really nice inside too. Reds, browns... very warm & a little cozy inside despite the size.

Chambar is one restaurant I've always wanted to try ever since they opened. When I saw their menu, it seemed to me they were doing more "exciting"/"hip"/"trendy" food.

Laziness, stinginess and the refusal to pay for parking has always won out though, and well, I haven't gotten around to it (in 3 years?) until this week. At $25, the Dine Out menu seemed to offer good value.

We were approximately 15 minutes late making our 5:00pm reservation. (Yes, we're becoming seniors, eating at such an early evening hour!) We had some problems finding the place and so had to spring for valet parking to avoid being extremely late. When we got to the restaurant, the hostess told us that we have to get out of there by 6:30 , as the next seating is set for that time. When I hear something like that, I get a tad whingy. See, I do not need to be told we had to get out at a certain time. Restaurants should just *not* tell customers they need to leave, because it irritates customers. Don't they think? Because, really, the time it takes the customer to finish their meal is dependent on the restaurant is dependent and the pace of the service. That is, the time it takes for the customer to eat is in the hands of the restaurant, the kitchen, and the wait staff. Most people do not eat slowly.

So, please, refrain from telling me this unncessary info. I certainly do not mind a faster pace of service. In fact, I prefer a faster pace instead of a slower one myself. I am not a lingerer and do not really like to linger after my table's been cleared.

(We did get out of there at around 6:40 , but we could have gotten out of there earlier if they had been faster with the bill. We sat there for ten minutes waiting for them to bring back the bill.)

Anyways, had to get that off my chest. I don't penalize restaurants for these minor points, because it's all about the food. Efficient and slightly impersonal service does it for me. I don't like overly familiar or overly friendly service in restaurants.

On to the food!

La Soupe de Mais et Crabe
Roasted corn & crab soup. "Piment d'espelette".
-- or --
La Salade d'Hiver
Belgium endive & watercress salad, cranberry & vanilla vinaigrette, star anise fig crostini.
-- or --
Carpaccio de Chevreuil
Venison carpaccio, roasted garlic & horseradish tapenade, golden yukon crisps, baby arugula.

csc and cw both chose the soup.

I had the crab and corn soup. Pretty tasty. I liked it.

This was a very nice appetizer, it sure got my appetite started! i only wish that there was more! i only remember the corn, not so much the crab. a more generous serving would have been appreciated!

For starters, I had the venison carpaccio. It was presented beautifully, on a rectangular plate, all red disks like that. Different from the usual round carpaccio presentation.

I wish I had more arugula: I had at most 3 LEAVES of arugula. The dressing for the carpaccio is slightly sweet, which I didn't like all that much. I would have preferred something more acidic.

Horseradish is always nice, although I don't like it that much with the sweetish roasted garlic combination.

I had the carpaccio as well. Again, I seem unable to resist raw red meat on a menu. ;)

I must say that the venison was sliced extremely well! That is, they were all uniform in size and thickness. I was impressed. The meat looked good as well. Nice and red; fresh-looking. It was also dressed well.

Of course, the yukon gold crisps were good (how can they not be) and the arugula was nice. There was only a little bit of the roasted garlic/horseradish tapenade, which was fine since that preparation was just "OK" for me; I didn't really look for it. All in all, satisfying.

Moules Congolaise
Mussels cooked with a tomato coconut cream, smoked chili & lime, fresh cilantro.
-- or --
Boeuf Braise a la Kriek
Bellevue Kriek braised beef shortribs, hazelnut pomme puree, sour cherry compote.
-- or --
Truite et Ravioli
Absinthe butter crusted ruby trout, roasted pepper & goat cheese ravioli, citrus herb shaved fennel.

I had the beef shortribs. I thought it was going to look like the Korean beef shortribs (with bones and meat) but it was just a chunk of meat.

It was good, except, that day, I had roast beef for breakfast and for lunch (and actually roast beef for dinner the night before). So I was all “beef-ed” out. Couldn’t finish it. The mashed potatoes were good.

The meal wasn’t huge, which was perfect coz my belly can’t hold so much food now that baby’s taking up more space hahaha!

For my main, I had the trout. I didn't like the fact that the skin was not crispy and was all soft and limp. For something "crusted," it didn't really have any crunch at all.

I liked the fennel salad, as it was cool and refreshing. It picked up the fennel, anise-y flavours of the "crust" on the trout. The dressing was not really really citrus-y, as far as I remember, because I would have liked it more citrus-y to balance the anise-y flavours. Too much anise is a little bit intoxicating, cloying.

The dish overall was too anise-y for my tastes. Something to have "grounded" the anise flavours would have been nice. And needed.

I had the trout as well. (JS copied my orders!)

I didn't mind the non-crispy skin. Fish was cooked well. I don't know if I tasted the absinthe flavour; all I know was that the "crust" was crumb-y and salty and worked with the fish.

The fennel was a nice addition, although I wished it had more acid (and perhaps a touch more seasoning). The ravioli was really nicely done as well: flavorful filling, nice pasta.

Again, satisfying.

8.5/10 - well done.

the trout was very tender and the skin was easily removed which is a plus! it wasn't fishy at all. also, i love goat cheese, so this was mostly why i chose this dish as my entree. the ravioli was also quite good.

same comment as with the soup... fast forward a few hours later... i was hungry! so again, i wish there was more trout and some more ravioli for the "filling" factor. but all in all, i think it was a good deal for $25!

A note about the mussels (which none of us ordered).

It looked HUGE!!! It came in a black covered pot. A pretty big one, considering it's for one person. There was a guy in the party beside us who ordered it. When the server uncovered the pot, the smells from the dish came wafting our way. It smelled REALLY good!

Also, throughout our meal, CSC observed that it was taking the guy QUITE A WHILE to get through his mussels dish! And this with a lot of shells already discarded on his shell-plate.

Same observation when I was on my way to the washroom near the end of the meal. I saw people with lots of discarded shells on their side plate, and still a number of mussels inside the pot! The broth also came to about 1/2 of the pot (or 1.3, let's say).

Pretty generous serving, that mussels dish. (Unless there's some sort of voodoo with that pot, it was really big.)

So next time, perhaps someone will order a mussels dish. =)

(The only "problem" I can think of is how is one supposed to eat all that mussels and broth without RICE?! Haha. Because it would just be eating ALL MUSSELS, ALL THE TIME! )

Pommes Frites

This was "OK". I guess I expected more since this *is* a Belgian restaurant!

Actually, there was a "shelf" taste to the pommes frites. ("Shelf" taste = stale taste)

I don't know if I'm convinced that that was the paprika sprinkled onto the frites (as per JS's suggestion).

I agree with ts. The fries had that “old” starch taste of like old rice… something was not quite right about it.

7/10 - aside from the seasoning, this was very much like the fries at earls or cactus club, so i wasn't impressed. i think the "fries" from bistro bistrot have set the bar for fries for me at least. i wouldn't mind another bucket of fries from there.

Yeah, those pommes allumettes from Bistrot Bistro were good. =D

Pear & Passionfruit Nectar, with thyme
Grapefruit Juice and ___? with___?

I always give extra points for places that spend just a little time mixing up non-alcoholic drinks. (Like Parkside! And Chow too. Chow was good too. )

I had the Pear/Passionfruit drink. It was not bad. I still like pineapple juice the best, hehe. =D

I had a sip of this, and was completely reminded of cough syrup. I didn’t like any of the drinks at all. Good thing I stuck with water.

JS had the Grapefruit one. I don't remember what was in it. She didn't like it that much, she said.

Gaufre Liegoise
Belgian waffle, housemade vanilla ice cream & warm chocolate sauce.
-- or --
Pot de crème
Matcha pot de creme, lemon sable & blueberry compote.
-- or --
Le Fromage
Daily cheese, spiced quince jam & toasted fig bread.

The waffle, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce: very good.

But I like pastries with ice cream always. Chocolate was darker than milk chocolate, so everything was of the good.

The only thing I can say is the waffle really didn't have a lot of flavour for me. I expected it to be more delicious and able to stand on its own.

I had the waffles.

When we arrived, I actually just wanted dessert right away, no more appetizers and main course because it was 530 PM!! I think my lunch was still not quite digested!

But the waffles were pretty good. I could’ve done with lots more ice cream =D

I had the pot de creme. I really love creme brulees, pots de cremes... so nice. =)

Anyway, this had a nice macha flavor. I could've done with MORE macha flavor, but I think that's just the Chinese in me talking.

The blueberry compote was nice too; it wasn't too sweet. However, I think the pot de creme would've fared better without the blueberry. But I guess they felt they had to add another component to the dessert so it wouldn't be too plain.

9/10 - i'm not usually a dessert person, so this was a very nice surprise.

the pot de creme was very light, being not very sweet, and the combination of the compote was perfect. the cookie was also very good as it wasn't sugary or buttery as well.

the pot de creme and cookie were both so good that i'd probably return to the restaurant just for this dessert!

Service: 7/10 -
once they're at your table, they're very good. but at times, it was difficult to flag them down when we needed something.

Ambience: 7/10 -
i just wish the table was more comfortable... well, the view wasn't bad though.

I would return to this restaurant to try their other dishes. Very intrigued by the mussels in Congolaise sauce. The space is very "hip," very "trendy," and you get the feeling they hire servers and staff for their looks mostly.

Food: about a 6/10. Could be better, but I'm not holding it against them.

I think this was one of the better Dine Out experiences I've had. And it really is such a good deal at $25 for the whole meal. (See above re Mussels, haha.)

Non-food-wise, I don't there was anything seriously amiss during the meal.

My rating's higher: 7.5/10 (Points off because of *you*, pommes frites!)

But yes, would return.

I wish we could do the dine-out again (I mean, go and have dine-out prices again) so I can try the mussels and if it was too much mussels not be too worried if I don’t finish. I hope the mussels are “safe” for pregnant women (aren’t they when cooked??)

Rating: 7/10,

but might be higher if I hadn’t forgotten that I had beef, beef, beef(!) already the whole day’s meals.

I would return to try some other things on the menu. maybe pair it with a beer or something!

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