Chalk continues to be my favorite restaurant in the greater-Cincinnati area. Located across the river in Covington, Chalk puts together a great, seasonal, menu and I noticed on my last visit, an emphasis on local wherever possible.
This was my 5th visit and I am still looking for something to top the duck “sloppy Joe” and venison pot-stickers, which helped me fall in love with the place. I hear they have a pulled-duck sandwich on their new lunch menu, so I will head back as soon as I can to try it out.
On this night, I started with a French country goat cheese, topped with plum jam and accented with spicy oil, you could smell the quality long before tasting it. The saltiness of the cheese and rich oil were balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the jam. Another sweet and savory treat was the fennel soup. A rich green color with little pools of Spanish olive oil provided the surprise of the night. This soup actually started out sweet and finished with a savory richness. I was not expecting this from a fennel soup, which I pictured to be a lot like an onion soup I guess…
I switched menus for my next little treat and enjoyed goat tartar. An addition to their small bites menu for restaurant week, this dish delivered. The only other time I have eaten goat is when my sous-chef used to take a 6-week sabbatical to go and visit his family in Mexico. He would bring back slow roasted whole goat. It was rich and tender, like pork. This goat, being raw, had a slight game flavor like you might get from venison. The texture of the meat was much like a beef tartar, but with an added layer of flavor. Complemented with a ginger, orange and fennel salad to add a bit of acidity to the deep richness, this is a must have if you visit.
Finally I had the Bluegrass Spring Lamb. When I eat lamb, I need a crust, to know that the pan was really hot to caramelize the fat and seal in the juices. As with a lot of meat, aside from the source, cooking technique is a must. Poorly seared, under-seasoned or cutting it too soon can just as easily ruin a very good piece as a bad. This lamb has it both, a great (local Fair Ridge farm) farm and the excellence in technique, which is a standard for Chalk. Crusty, juicy and full of flavor this dish was the perfect completion to the night. The sautéed spinach was great, the seasoning perfect and Chalk’s take on pierogi by deep-frying added a needed crunch to the plate.
I can’t leave without mentioning the beer. While Chalk’s name includes Food + Wine, I always find a great selection of beers to complement my meal. I had the amber selection from Mt. Carmel Brewing, the third I have tasted from these guys and it was great. Not too sweet and a very balanced amber ale that did not overpower my early courses and stood up very well to the rich goat and lamb entrées.
Overall, not my favorite meal at Chalk but definitely my favorite meal of the trip and best of the year so far in Cincinnati.