The opportunity to enjoy one last great meal of 2012 is fading fast – also known as a very good excuse for a night out. Saturday’s dinner at Chops absolutely fulfilled this for me. Unlike that of my most recent Atlanta dining experience (which will remain nameless unless of course you read the post about it), the food, service, and company were ALL wonderful at Chops.
Saturday was definitely a martini night. Paired with warm onion bread and lots of butter, it was a lovely way to start the evening. We decided to go all out with the apps: Blue Point oysters, striped orange marlin ceviche, stone crab claws, and flash fried lobster tail. The ceviche was by far my favorite of the appetizers – bright, fresh, and citrusy. There was definitely a little habanero kick at the end, which provided a nice element of heat. The addition of the crunchy tortilla chips gave it the perfect textual contrast.
The oysters had a wonderfully crisp and firm texture. I love the briny flavor profile that you get from an east coast oyster – the saltier the better in my book. The stone crab claws were just as delicious as the crabs I enjoyed in Fort Lauderdale last week. Once again, no sauce necessary. Although lobster isn’t usually my first choice, you can’t skip out on ordering the “signature” dish on a menu. This particular lobster was not necessarily deserving of its “signature” dish status. The meat was sweet and flavorful, but it wasn’t melt-in-your-mouth delicious like some of the other things we enjoyed.
I’ve been to Chops quite a few times in the past, and apparently all this time I’ve been making the misteak (typo intended) of ordering one of their steaks. Not that their steaks aren’t good, but I realized after this meal that their seafood is REALLY good. I went with the evening special – blackened grouper served over a lobster risotto.
I love ordering fish at a restaurant when the server actually asks you how you would like your fish cooked – medium rare. The fish was beautifully prepared with a nice sear on the outside. The blackened seasoning was spicy and smoky without being overwhelming. Unlike the flash fried lobster, the lobster risotto actually was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was exceptionally rich and creamy, with lots and lots of lobster chunks. The dish finished with a delicate and spicy tomato broth, a nice contrast to the richness of the risotto.
I also tasted a bite of the “hong kong” Chilean sea bass and the bone-in rib eye, both of which were very good, but no competition for the grouper.
As for sides, which really could have been a separate meal on their own, we went with the truffle parmesan fries (my choice), the lobster mac ‘n cheese, and the crisped hash browns. Despite being allergic to truffle oil, I would pretty much put it on anything if I could. Both the fries and the hash browns were nice and crispy. At this point, I was pretty lobstered out, but I tasted just enough of the mac ‘n cheese to see that it was just as rich and creamy as the risotto.
The service was phenomenal all evening long. On a busy Saturday night, this is not an easy task with a party of 8. Every time I took a sip of wine, someone was there to refill my glass (or so it seemed). I’m assuming this probably contributed to the fact that we went through several (which might be an understatement) bottles of The Prisoner – a ridiculously smooth Napa Valley zinfandel blend. I’m no wine connoisseur, but they certainly did NOT miss the mark on this one. After this meal, Chops has officially been added to my “go-to” list under the seafood category.