When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Chop Location: 2625 West Queen Creek Road, Chandler Open: A little over two weeks Eats: American steakhouse Price: $31 to $60 per person.
Chop is a steakhouse in the suburbs. In Downtown Ocotillo in south Chandler, it resides in an upscale shopping development and was opened by the owners of the Living Room, Sushi Room (also in the complex), and Humble Pie pizza chain.
Chop's appearance is masculine yet contemporary -- a large, high-ceilinged, windowless room with clean lines, a U-shaped bar in the center, and floor-to-ceiling walls of wines and spirits. Its appointments of dark polished wood, warm leather, and dim amber lights would feel cozy if not for the restaurant's cold interior temperature and booming adult contemporary tunes (no diner should suffer The Dave Matthews Band on rotation through a meal, and especially not at such a high volume).
Here, given the chilly indoor temp, the men as well as the women keep their jackets on while awaiting a basket of warm complimentary bread. A compliment that, unfortunately (unlike at many steakhouses), never arrives.
Chef Charles Osteen, who worked 19 years for Houston's Restaurant, the Beverly Hills-based restaurant chain, helms the kitchen at Chop and developed its single-page menu of classic steakhouse starters, entrees, and sides.
If you order the Cajun seared ahi tuna ($14) as an appetizer, do not expect very much Cajun. The eight pieces of the seared fish were well-prepared, but lacked the lively flavors associated with the cooking style.
The Chop ($23), a house-cured, double-cut pork chop with a so-so side of creamy coleslaw, was a somewhat satisfying, but not stellar, entree. Fairly tender and served with a sweet and chunky green apple chutney, which complemented the pork's salty side, I enjoyed this dish, but would have preferred the chop to be slightly more pink inside and with less char outside.
Better is the center cut filet ($38; petite size $22). Expertly prepared, tender, and with a luscious, herb-y compound butter, bites of this scrumptious filet would easily satisfy any steak lover, especially between forkfuls of broccoli sprinkled with cheese.
Service, although efficient with basic duties such as clearing plates and filling water glasses, lacked the training necessary to explain dishes and guide me and my dining partner to Chop's better offerings.
Chop is well on its way to becoming a steakhouse that Chandler would be proud to call its own. But until it improves its atmosphere and service, as well as making a few adjustments to some of its dishes, spending just under a hundred dollars here (which I did on my visit -- and that was sans cocktails), seems like a visit that could be put on hold -- at least for now.
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