Beyond the steak house – Chap’s dishes up something for all palates | VailDaily.com
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Beyond the steak house – Chap’s dishes up something for all palates

Wren Wertin
Chap's Sommelier Jordan D. Goncharoff loves sharing the world of wine with his guests, and will gladly open several bottles.
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Chap’s is a comfortable place. The large booths feel protected and private, while the roomy tables offer a view of the restaurant’s happy hum. Soft lights are everywhere, within bold metalwork.

Decidedly un-fussy, Chap’s will please refined palates and meat-hungry folks alike.

“We’re more than a steak house,” said Beck. “If you come here to eat, you want to be excited about food.”

“The restaurant is a mountain theme,” added Goncharoff. “We’ve upgraded it enough for those special, romantic, fine-dining moments, but it’s casual and friendly enough so anyone can come in, families or otherwise. I don’t want anyone to walk up to the door and say it’s not for them.”

The menu is the result of a joint effort by Beck and Hucks. We were lucky enough to start our meal with a sneak preview of a new menu item, created by Hucks. Made in-house, a ravioli is stuffed with wild mushrooms and topped with a generous piece of lobster. It’s served atop a butternut squash puree, which is creamy in texture without being heavy. The whole shebang is outlined in a balsamic reduction and chive oil.

“I’m an artist,” said Hucks. “Food is my joy, my passion. The color, the texture, the flavor – I’m drawn to the creative aspect.”

Goncharoff is drawn to the creative aspect of dining as well, but focuses on the wine. He paired the ravioli with a 2000 Eberle Viognier from Paso Robles, liking the way its mild earth tones enriched the food. He passed the demanding sommelier test eight months ago, and enjoys the challenge of pairing wines with foods of complex flavor. For our six-course tasting, he was six for six, with special points awarded for inventiveness.

His wine list is extensive, and includes more than 30 wines by the glass. Once a month the staff hosts special dinners, and he pairs wines with each course. Next month he’ll try to focus on wines under $30.

“Those are the ones that blow people away,” he explained. “It’s hard to say wow when it’s $1,000.”

He’s especially proud of the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt “RK” Riesling Cuvee, which is a both tangy and sweet with a subtle effervescence. (And, according to him, a genuine bargain.) He paired it with Hucks’ seared foie gras ($17), served on sweet French toast drizzled with a maple demi-glace and diced apples.

“Sometimes, with a sweet dish, you just have to jump in and go sweet all the way,” he said, laughing as he poured the wine.

I asked him how he knew he’d hit on the right pairing.

“Usually I get that look, like the one I got from you,” he responded. “The big eyes and the big smile – I look for it in the mirror, first. Wine should help in the celebration of a meal. If it’s paired right, it will enhance Jared’s efforts.”

The Chap’s menu includes several healthy choices. One of the staff’s favorites is the blackened ahi tuna with pineapple sambal ($12). To balance the richness of the foie gras, we went for the roasted beet and arugula salad ($7), peppery with lots of zing. The candied orange zest made the dish.

“The food here is so good, it makes our job easy,” said Michael Cousins, a server at the restaurant.

Cousins’ favorite entree is the 35-day aged bone-in 26-ounce beef rib-eye ($36), served with a choice of several sauces: marinated gorgonzola, three peppercorn, creamy horseradish or chipotle steak sauce.

For us Hucks chose his piece de resistance, the elk filet mignon ($34). Crusted with peppercorns and crowning a pile of mashed potatoes, the secret’s in the sauce – a huckleberry foie gras sauce, to be exact. The tart-and-sweet berries add little bursts of flavors, as does the wine-poached pear.

Goncharoff broke into his “off the menu” stash and came to the table with a 2000 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon. Justin is one of his favorite wineries, but he had too many of them on his wine list to add another. He might bring a bottle or two out if it seems warranted.

“The point of anybody coming in is to have a good time,” he said. “I love the constant change in the restaurant business, the excitement and the challenge. I like being able to wow somebody, or enhance someone’s vacation experience. Hopefully they can take home something to talk about for years to come.”

His favorite part of the meal is port. After Hucks brought out the mocha java bomb ($7) and the butterscotch creme brulee ($7), Goncharoff brought a 1994 Calem Ruby Port with vanilla and fruit flavors. Leaning back into the booth’s cushions, sipping port, it was a strong finish. More than a steak house indeed.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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