Just a note before we start: one of Wendy’s coworkers made a comment along the lines of, “Wow, you guys really like surprises…!”, after hearing about our latest dinner out, so at the risk of sounding too overly cute here’s just one more. Last one, we promise!! …Well at least for a good long while anyway 😛
This time it was Wendy’s turn. I feel pretty dumb that I didn’t clue in, but we had just planned a quiet New Year’s at home with a cheese platter since I haven’t done that for many, many years so I wasn’t expecting anything. We had a bit of groceries to pick up but Wendy said she wanted to stop by and see a friend first, and suggested we get dressed up for “New Year’s pics” that night. Okay, I’m game. Her friend lives in Richmond so we hopped in Wendy’s car and off we went. I made some comments about being all dressed up with nowhere to go and looking back Wendy said she was worried I had figured out her game plan, but I didn’t realize anything was amiss until we pulled into the parking lot of the Sandman Hotel (wrong lot by mistake). As we circled the lot I briefly wondered why her friend was here at the hotel instead of at home, then my Spidey-senses finally started to tingle and I knew she had something fun planned 🙂 Once we found the right lot it turned out to be the very swanky looking Chop.
The photos above give some idea of the opulence; on the left is the corridor between restaurant and lounge and on the right is the chandelier-thing that hung above our table. One of the best restrooms in the city I’d say as well, you could get lost in them they are so spacious!
Wendy had made reservations and we were seated at a table set for four; our hostess apologized and began removing the extra menus. Wendy then attempted to give her the other two, which resulted in an awkward tug of war between the three of us, with the hostess assuring Wendy that “they are the same menus.” The hostess didn’t take them back so Wendy asked to speak with the assistant manager whom she had booked the reservations through. I realized Wendy’s plans were going awry and excused myself to the restroom so she could sort it out without spoiling anything further.
After an awkward moment the hostess came back and retrieved the menus from her and said, “Oh right, you’re not supposed to have these are you.” I came back to find her obviously stewing with anger, but I hadn’t even glanced at the menu so for me nothing seemed ruined. She wanted to do the same thing I had done for her at Chambar, and order in advance. There was indeed a long list of notes next to our reservation but the hostess and waitress had neglected to read and follow them. However the assistant manager was apologetic and waited on us personally for the rest of the night to ensure we had a memorable experience, which both of us appreciated immensely.
We started with a bread basket of their in-house fresh baked multigrain which was served up warm with a side of whipped butter. Good stuff! To start the rest of the night he came around and offered Wendy a glass of bubbly and I a ginger ale in a champagne glass. Then came a couple of appetizers, one surf one turf. On the surf side the Crab and Shrimp Cake stole the show. It’s not something I normally order, but out of the admittedly smallish number of crab cakes I’ve had this one took the erm…cake. The crust was done just right and was what appealed to me the most I think, contrasted nicely with the soft texture within. It came with the same wasabi aioli and citrus salsa that the phyllo pastries below came with as far as I could tell. The aioli was quite garlicky, as were several of the other selections, which I thought was a bit of an odd choice since it’s New Year’s Eve and couples will be looking forward to midnight kisses and all. The prawns in the Jumbo Prawn Cocktail were juicy and again I’m not a huge fan of cocktail sauce, but as far as they go this is one of the better ones I’ve had. It added a slight kick at the end, and the dill garnish gave it a nice bite as well. The plate was rounded off with a roll of Smoked Salmon.
As for the Steakhouse Trio the Steak Bites were nothing to write home about and were served cold. However the other two parts of the trio were the highlight of the night for me. The Spicy Cashew Snap Peas were very fresh and sweet and the sauce was a Thai-style mix of red chili and cashew nuts. The bread that came with the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio was also flecked with chilis so Wendy made a good choice there since I love spicy!
The assistant manager brought out some more sides on the house to make up for the mishaps, again we were appreciative. The fries were decent but the Fresh Ahi Tuna Pillars didn’t quite make the grade. I never would have guessed the phyllo pastry was ginger butter, sesame noodles were flavourless and the whole thing was too soft, bland and soggy . The prawns were the same ones that came with the Surf Trio.
Wendy had a “medium” Prime Rib dinner for the main. It was HUGE!! The pic does not do it justice. She had it done medium-rare and it was just the right combination of juicy and moist and the freshly shaved horseradish was excellent. She still could have used more au jus though. The veggies on both of our plates were coated with garlic which again was not really conducive to New Year’s celebrations although it was really really yummy. She really really enjoyed the mashed potatoes…creamy with just the right amount of tartness. I didn’t care for the skins though.
She chose the Miso Sablefish for me which was a good pick since it’s something I had been meaning to cross off my “to-try” list. However I found this one overly salty due to the miso. I’d like to try it again in a dish that lets the flavour of the fish through more since I did really like the buttery taste and texture lurking underneath the blackened crust. The cucumber strands on top gave a bit of cooling respite from the salt. I’m surprised they don’t refer to them as “noodle-cut” or something on the menu to fit the Asian theme of the dish.
For dessert Wendy had the Raspberry White Chocolate Creme Brulee. The sugar was caramelized properly and it came with a sliced strawberry and some shortbread cookies on the side. You could probably O.D. on the amount of sugar in this one! Each dessert comes with a wine pairing on the New Year’s menu.
She got me Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Butter Cream. It was so good…just looking at the picture while I’m typing this is giving me cravings! We both only finished about half though so if you decide to check this place out I’d suggest sharing a dessert considering the generous portions. At the end the assistant manager went even further to ensure we left satisfied by discounting our bill even on top of the freebies! So yeah, they screwed up but in the end they’ve more than redeemed themselves. And as for me, the little hiccup didn’t matter in the slightest; I still had a great evening. Thanks Wendy and Happy New Year everybody!
Update: We stopped at Ikea Bistro a few days later and noticed they had a menu item nearly identical to Chop’s Seafood Trio. This one was pre-assembled and saran-wrapped and put in the fridge for you to grab. Honestly the picture banner they have of it somewhere around the store looks much better than the real thing. This was comprised of two slices of marinated salmon, a fishcake and shrimp salad. There was two decently sized pieces of the salmon, which was very similar to your usual smoked variety.
At first we thought the fishcake thing would be like a crab cake of sorts…but it turns out to be more like a fishcake of salmon. It had a fishy aroma but not the bad kind. It would’ve been much better if it was warmed up. It was quite dense but not extremely dry.
Lastly was the shrimp salad. It looks much better after it’s all mixed up huh?! The dressing was slightly sweet and tangy, kind of lemony so it was quite refreshing. We couldn’t really figure out what the colorful strips of vegetable matter were…we’re guessing carrots, yellow pepper and a white vegetable.
Having said that, this was more enjoyable than it looked at first. And at $3.99 you can’t really go wrong =)