Well, folks, I went to a dinner party at Le Chalet Basque in San Rafael last night, and here is the review I promised.
The decor of the place closely resembles a mid-western establishment, with aging and decidedly untrendy styling. The group ordered the full Basque dinner with a vafriety of entrees. The full dinner is $4 extra over the price of entrees, wich are $16-19 a a la carte, and includes apetiser, soup, salad, and dessert.
The appetiser consisted of pretty good garlic bread, a rough home-made liver pate, tiny, thin and very hot pepperoncini, and what appeared to be Gallo salami. Rating: ** (out of five)
The salad greenery was fresh, except for the lackluster tomato, and came with a very dark a glutious vinaigratte, with or without blue cheese. The vinaigrette actually solidified to a gelatinous mass after a few minutes. Rating: *
The soup was cream of vegetable with watercress. It was thinner than I expected, but tasty nonetheless, with small chunks of potato and watercress leaves providing a welcome bitterness to offset the rich base. Rating: **
The entrees I tried were Tripe Piquant a la Basquaise, Mahi Mahi Bernaise, Scallops Basquaise, Scampi Basquaise, and Rabbit Chasseur. I give the titles as I remember them appearing on the menu.
The tripe came in a rich and rather salty dark stew that had no hint of Piquant, and needed a great deal of pepper to bring it to life. The tripe itself was well-cooked through, had good texture, and was redolent with its characteristic aroma. Rating: **
The Mahi Mahi was served well-done, with an array of vegetables cleary intended for presentation only, and a glutinous and flavorless herbed sauce Bernaise. The fish itself was reasonably fresh, although it had been some time since it has seen the fishing net. Rating: *1/2
The Scampi was actually medium-sized ocean prawns, served well-oiled and grilled. They were cooked to the right amount of doneness but excessively greasy and lacked all seasoning. Rating: **
The scallops were prepared deep-fried, and were oercooked to the point of rubberiness. Absolutely inedible. Rating: () - no stars.
The rabbit was well-caramelized but under-seasoned. It was cooked to the right degree of doneness, however. Rating: *
For dessert we had ice cream and rice pudding. The ice cream was unremarkable, but the pudding was very interesting. Not at all sweet and very soupy, it came with a great deal of nutmeg. It cleared the palate rather well. Rating: **
The wine was a Cote du Rhone table wine, mild and slightly spicy.
To finish, I had a Basque liqueueur called something like Panchatan. It was a very mild anisette infused with berries and herbs, and slightly redolent of a Fernet-Branca type aroma. It was quite good and defineitely helped digestion.
The service was attentive and well in keeping with the decor.
Overall rating: *