We had a party of 6 and arrived at Chive for our 7pm reservations. I have to admit, using Opentable.com for reservations made it much easier, since when I called the restaurant to ask some questions, I was put on hold at least 3 times (once before I had even finished a sentence). To their credit, we were seated right away. We saw a lot of people eating at the bar, so if you wanted to go tonight (this is the last night for SDRW) you could probably do that.
Chive adds that lovely SDRW-induced automatic 20% gratuity. They also had options on the menu to upgrade from $30 to $40. This gave you two more options under the 2nd and 3rd course: scallops or something in the 2nd, and a beef tenderloin or lamb lollipop in the 3rd. We stuck with the $30 menu.
Drinks were about $9-11, we gave our waiter our order, he disappeared for at least 15 minutes, and then our drinks came out in pairs. With delays in between - why didn't they all come together? After more waiting (and no bread to nibble on - I don't even know if we could have ordered something off menu) he finally came back to take our dinner orders. I don't know if it's the materials of the walls or what, but I couldn't hear the person across from me unless we both leaned into the table.
The squash soup was okay, with some chestnuts placed in the middle of the bowl. Not particularly warm, but perhaps that's because the bowl was so huge compared to the amount of soup. The beet terrine, I heard, was quite tasty, so if you like beets and goat cheese, you'd be happy with that one. I liked the mushroom ravioli. The pasta was tender, the mushrooms had nice bite to them and the broth was delicious. I used by bf's soup spoon to clean it all up. The crispy potatoes were more like pan fried slices of small potatoes, but the mustard aoli made it worthwhile. No one got the salad.
The prawn spring roll was indeed filled with a large tasty prawn, and had 4 generous bite-size pieces. The ceviche was made up of slices of hamachi on a scoop of mashed avocados. On the side was a small dollop of the lemon creme fraiche, which was topped with some sort of gummy seeds (I've had them before and I can't figure out what they are). It was good, but not what I expected from "ceviche". I really liked the crab mac 'n cheese, even though it reminded me more of a tuna casserole with the not-goopy sauce and peas. But it was tasty, we did spy bits of crab, and it was probably the biggest portion of anything all night. Yum.
We had one beef salad, one chicken pinchitos (skewers), and the rest of us got the braised pork. To me, the best part of the chicken dish was the lime and yogurt sauce for dipping. Nothing else seemed outstanding to me. The pork, however, came with a wild boar sausage that was very tasty (and not gamey) and the pork was fall apart tender with some tasty dark sauce.
The "study of chocolate" was replaced with a chocolate marquis. The panna cotta looked to be replaced with a cheese course. The kinda crispy rice pudding was still there (the best part was the creamy top and bruleed sugar, the bottom half of the ricey part was dry and boring). The cheese plate came with fig jam and some raisin bread, one blue cheese and another cheese. I didn't taste it, but my friend said it was much better than the cheese plate at Baleen. I really liked the chocolate marquis - it was creamy, melty chocolate, so what's not to like?
The small plate format makes it a nice place for happy hour, but I don't see going back for dinner. If we wanted small plates for dinner, we'd go out for tapas where the dishes are made for sharing (not plated for one or two bites, literally). It's also pretty noisy, adding to a happy hour drink-and-dish vibe.
I'm glad we finally checked it out, I'm glad we didn't go for the $40 menu, and we still had a great night out with friends. I'm tired of having places tack on 20% gratuity simply because it's SDRW but not stepping up the service because it's SDRW and they might want to try and impress new customers. Give me good service and I'm more than happy to throw in a nice tip. Expect me to give you more money simply because we're not spending $100/head in food and booze? No. From seating to leaving, it took almost 3 hours. I guess it's nice we didn't feel rushed, but I would have been happier if we could have enjoyed more conversation in those gaps.
Now to sit back and wait for next year. It seems each year we learn something new.