I was at work in the office today and decided to go to Chapeau! tonight for dinner on a whim with a friend. I've read quite a few good things about this place, so called up and made reservations for a bit before 6 to see if the "early bird" dinner made the venture even more attractive.
Unfortunately there the rain caused lots of delay on 101 with some traffic accidents so we actually got there about an hour late. I was good about calling twice to let them know I was definitely coming and to try to save our table.
There is no valet, but we were lucky to find a street parking spot five walking-seconds away.
The place was quite small and VERY crowded. Upon entering, there is a thick black curtain seperating the eating room and the tables. I had read on their website that they were casual so I showed up from my weekend-work wear which was a nice button down shirt and jeans, but we were probably a bit underdressed compared to the rest. For a "bistro" listed as "casual" it kind of suprised me. But no worries, in California dresscode is overlooked a lot. In New York I would have been a bit more self conscious. THe tables are really squished together. Seating arrangement is probably easiest to describe as an airplane with tables A,B,C then a center aisle then tables D, E, F. So for the two toppers, our tables were LITERALLY one foot away from theother table. With so many people and the tables so close together the place was very loud.
The room was nicely lit with soothing wall colors and decorations. I didn't go to the bathroom, but my eating companion noted that it was a basic bathroom.
Winelist was a small book with around 30 or so pages. I only looked at the wines by the glass and the half bottles since I would be the only drinking and found a nice selection of half bottles mostly from France (duh) and a few from California. I settled on a village level Bourgogne rouge from Maison Champy. Around this time the chef walks around and shakes our hand all smiles. He also seems to be the wine steward. He seemed very friendly. When I mentioned to him to only pour me the wine sine I would be the only one drinking he joked, "I don't see how anyone could not drink wine, since I am French." We had some laughs at that.
My companion ordered the vegetarian set menu. I went with a 3 set menu and chose as my first course a plate of seared foie gras, with a ball of toasted brioche, and I believe slices of pear ($14 a la carte, or +$6 supplement to the prix fixe). Main course would be their cassoulet a la toulousaine. Cassoulet is one of my favorite French dishes so I had to get this. Dessert was an interesting martini glass with chilled orange "soup", citrus sorbet and on the side a Grand Marnier souffle (frozen).
Food all around was excellent. No real complaints off the top of my head. The chef was always around opening and serving the wine, so I wonder if he even did a lot of expediting in the back *shrug* Service was adequate. Our waitress (not sure what to call her as she wasn't dressed in uniform; a kind, older Asian woman) took our orders. Asian woman and runners served and cleared dishes. Some would serve/clear from one spot (reaching across the table) instead of walking around and doing it properly from the other diner's back, but I can't really fault them since ALL the tables were close togetherand it would be very inefficient and bothersome to do it that way. One of the runners didn't speak loud enough to describe our amouse bouche. So I have no idea what my companion had, and I had to ask the runner again about mine, which turned out to be a nice espresso cup of a split pea soup.
Check came out to be $109 after tip ($31 veg. prix fixe, $31 3-course prix fixe, +$6 foie gras supplement, $18 for a half bottle of wine, + tax) and as we left there were probably 3-4 parties waiting for tables. As we walked to our spot, we heard this voice yelling at us from behind, and I distinctly heard some wine glasses clinking together. We turned around to find the head chef/propietor Phillipe running at us saying goodbye, hoping we had a good time, and to come again. He shook my hand and gave my friend a hug and European (cheek-cheek) kiss. Wow never had that happen before.
Will I go back? Definitely.
There is no bar/counter so it's not good for singles. So I'll need to find lots of excuses to bring my girlfriend and other friends to eat with me at this place. The only negative thing I can say is that the two toppers are really really close together. When you make a reservation ask for a table near the window or next to the wall so you can avoid having tables on both sides of you.