Well, after having managed to live in the Richmond for 2 years without trying Chapeau, my husband finally took me there for my birthday last night, and I'm so glad we went -- overall, it was a lovely experience. The service was warm and gracious from start to finish, and the food was fantastic.
I started with a mesclun salad with a slightly sweetish, dijon-based dressing, confited tomatoes, and beets. I loved the dressing -- not as acidic as most dressings for mesclun I've encountered in restaurants, all the better to go with the glass of chardonnay I had to start my meal. (Extra points to the house for allowing you to taste the wine at the table before they pour the full glass, which allowed me to realize I was in the mood for something heavier than the Jurancon sec I had originally chosen.) Only slight (very slight) negative was that the tomatoes were a little overly chewy, and I was hoping for more beets -- they were a garnish rather than an integrated part of the salad. Husband enjoyed his moules and frites, and I also enjoyed his frites! Great aioli with pimenton for dipping them in.
My husband opted for "menu 2", which, in addition to an app, entree, and dessert of his choice, also included a palate cleanser and a fish tasting course. We chose the palate cleanser that was calvados based. While tasty, it was also quite boozy. DH enjoyed the fish tasting course, a single seared scallop over risotto with corn and lobster sauce.
My entree was the petit poussin roasted with honey and lavender, over spaetzle and chicken jus. I don't eat meat very often, so my experience with chicken is fairly limited, but I thought this was absolutely amazing -- the skin had a subtle sweetness that complemented the meat, and the spaetzle, though smaller than I was expecting, were the perfect vehicle for picking up the deeply flavored jus. (I also asked where they sourced the poussin from, and it was from Fulton Farms, FYI.) My husband got the sauteed salmon with corn and tomatoes. While he enjoyed it, I just think it's too late in the season for corn based dishes (although I'm sure someplace in CA still has it, right?), and the salmon was, of course, farmed, which, as I told my husband, is against my food religion.
We also talked at length with Phillipe about choosing a red Burgundy that suited our preferences and the food, and the one that he helped us settle on, a 2003 Denis Carre bottling from Pommard (sorry, can't remember the vineyard name), was perfect.
As we had a fair amount of wine left after the entrees, and I'm not a big sweets person anyway, we opted for the cheese course for dessert (yes, my birthday cake of choice is the cheese plate!). Each of the cheeses -- a St. Augur (blue), crottin, Tomme de Savoie, and cow's milk whose name I didn't quite catch -- was perfectly ripe, and came with a couple slices of walnut baguette and some sliced grapes with, I think, mint. More grapes were cheerfully provided on request.
The only negative about the evening, really, was the space -- I knew before we went that the tables were close together and it was loud, but, well, the tables were close together and it was loud! This, especially at the beginning of the night, made me cranky -- it really is, at the two-tops anyway, like dining with the people at the neighboring tables -- it's impossible not to overhear conversations, especially when you and everyone else has to shout to be heard. But the food and the service was enough to soothe me by the end of the night (we were also eating late, so by the second half of the meal things had quited down). I think next time we go, we'll try a weekday, to see if that's any less crazy. I wouldn't go, at least on a weekend, for a romantic occasion.
Overall, though, it was an excellent meal, one of the best I've had recently in the city, and I loved Phillipe and all of the staff. Also, fairly reasonably priced -- $170 before tip, including a $70 bottle of wine plus the glass of chardonnay. We definitely won't wait another two years to return!