Monday, May 19, 2008

Chaparosa Grill

Coronation chicken salad; filet of Dover sole in creamy basil sauce; chocolate ganache

Chaparosa Grill, 2449 Park Avenue, Tustin; tel. 714.259.9888


AN HOUR SOUTH OF GLENDALE, with a lengthy detour to Upland and environs p have dinner with good friends recently transplanted to Irvine from Brooklyn. I know: the geography's a bit daunting.

It was even more so for us, as Chaparosa Grill is
• on a street too new to be found by any GPS system, including Mandy who lives in the dashboard of our car;
• in a shopping center apparently designed to suggest a small Italian village surrounded by vast tracts of parking-lot.

Don't get me started on the follies of this kind of commercial town-planning.

We did ultimately find the place, and understood what Beth and Rusty see in it. Comfortable, capacious, interesting menu, good bar and wine list. Tonight, though, we were there for a monthly Monday special: owner-chef Tony Corke gave a demonstration of the three-course dinner outlined at the top of this page, distributing the recipes; and we ate that dinner, with a couple of glasses of Chardonnay, at a fixed price of thirty-five bucks plus tax and tip.

The salad involved a lettuce chiffonade, diced poached chicken breast, diced bananas and mango, chopped green onions and shelled peanuts, and a dressing that might give you pause: mayonnaise, curry paste, and peanut butter. It sounds terrible, and it is English (as is the chef): its title derives from its having been improvised at the coronation of Elizabeth II, by or perhaps for exotic members of the Empire. But in fact it was pretty tasty, especially on a hot night.

The fish course was more straightforward, more conventional: fillets rolled up, skewered on toothpicks, and poached; pesto made in a blender, then reduced with cream in a saucepan. This was served with rice and vegetables, and while uninspired in its hotel-school way it was nourishing and unobjectionable. I don't know why you'd want to tame pesto with cream, or for that matter why you'd serve sole with pesto -- a slice of lemon, or a nice beurre noire, is a more logical treatment. But as I say it was unobjectionable.

The ganache was a chocolate tart on a graham-cracker-crumb shell, flavored with Grand Marnier and raspberries. Again: Swiss-hotel cuisine. Again: solid and unobjectionable.

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