Been meaning to post since I visited Chez Papa (corner of 18th and Missouri on Potrero) Tuesday night, but this is the first chance I've had to sit down. So I hope I remember adequately...
Chez Papa is a lovely, trendy/cute corner bistro aiming to capitalize on the current wave of chic neighborhood spots featuring French/European-inspired small plates (of the Chez Nous ilk). If this appeals to you (as, I admit, it does to me), you're likely to like the place. On a Tuesday night, fairly late, the small corner restaurant was a (LOUD) beehive of activity--waiters dodging through the tightly packed tables, people overflowing onto the sidewalks. The atmosphere is very pleasant though. Red walls and lighting stylish fixtures and red votive candles cast a pleasantly warm glow.
My boyfriend and I split 5 small plates. (the menu had about 15 "small" plates in the $10 range and about 5 large plates in the $20 range, plus several sides (frites, potato gratin, etc.) for a few dollars). The first was a cucumber, shaved fennel and mache salad dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. Beautiful presentation, very light and refreshing. (Mache is one of my favorite greens--the only place I know of to buy it is Trader Joe's, but I was glad to see it on the menu!) Was supposed to come with shaved parmesan also, but it was nowhere to be found. Although it would have been a pleasant addition, the salad was quite adequate without it.
Next, four seared scallops on a bed of fava beans. I'm blanking on the herbs used, but the scallops were cooked perfectly, the fava beans still had a slight crunch, and the serving was quite generous for a small plate. Even my BF, who doesn't love scallops, enjoyed the dish. Then, an "openface mushroom ravioli"--really some sauteed mushrooms on two large, wide pieces of noodle. The mushrooms were a good assortment: shitake, maybe a morel or two, and a couple others (I am just learning about mushroom varietals now so forgive the spotty description), sauteed in oil I believe. Good mushroomy flavor, and the noodles were a nice accompaniment.
Next, mussels in a tomato-garlic broth--another generous serving for the price. This dish was pleasant as well, though I would have preferred a bit more garlic in the broth. It came in a cute little crockpot, and the mussels were well-cooked, if very slightly overdone. But the kitchen saved the best for last. Two small lambchops, perfectly cooked (we like them rare), tender to the point of melting in the mouth, without the gamey taste of older lamb. The meat was dusted with rosemary salt (yum!) and served over probably the best ratatouille I have ever had. Chock full of yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant, perfect amount of garlic--mmm. I could have eaten mounds of it (it is also served on its own as a side, and next time, I'm getting it.
For dessert we split a tarte tatin, which was good but not amazing (not quite enough crust for me, but then I am a pastry dough fiend). Good cappucino as well. We also had three glasses of wine (sorry, can't remember which ones), and the total bill was $100 with tip. I felt that was on the high end but fair for the amount of food and drink we had.
I liked the bistro quite a bit (as you can tell), and hear that it's run by the same team as Plouf. However, I can see that some wouldn't like it--avoid the place (at least during the dinner rush) if cramped spaces and noise bother you. But if not, and if you like the spate of small plates sweeping the city, definitely give this a try. I found the food a notch above Andalu (for the most part), and on a par to slightly better than Chez Nous. Good addition to the neighborhood.
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