A coworker & I needed to let off some steam after a hectic Monday and he’d heard Chops made a mean martini, so we decided to head there. Located on 11th & L Streets in Downtown Sacramento, I marveled at how I’d never noticed that it was so close to the Cathedral where I sing (it’s literally down the street; apparently I never turn my head in that direction). A sign near their small patio invited us to “Get Happy” with their happy hour that runs from 3-7pm, and in we went.
The décor is pretty par for the course with many “hip” restaurants and ultralounges in the Sacramento area these days: rich, dark wood mixed with the obligatory dim lighting and metallic accents throughout; gentle blues, browns, and creams softening the darkness. What caught my attention were the thoughtful cowboy-style accessories here and there, so that you would remember you were in a steakhouse and not just the hip restaurant of the moment. The bar stools covered in either horse or cow hair had to be my favorite, though I did feel a little badly for sitting on a former Palomino. The crowd was standard Downtown Sacramento, filled with lawyer & executive types, with the occasional disgruntled looking state worker here & there.
We put in our drink orders (some sort of mixed drink for him, a dirty vodka martini with 2 olives for me) and perused the food menu. A lot of the choices sounded very appetizing, from their Jumbo Stuffed Mushrooms with spinach, cream cheese, and creamy garlic-parmesan sauce, to their Ahi Poki, served “Hawaiian style” with soy, garlic, chilies, and cilantro. My coworker chose the Sauteed Jumbo Prawns, and after much vacillating between the Thai Skewered Beef and the Tiger Prawn Quesadilla, I chose the latter.
Our bartender was a little slow in getting the drinks made as it was fairly busy, but the martini did not disappoint. Though I still have fantasies of that incredible vodka martini at Olive Bar in San Francisco (honestly, I think it was the Gorgonzola-stuffed olives that made the difference), this one wasn’t bad at all. Unlike my martini fiasco at Castagnola’s on Fisherman’s Wharf, this one was filled most of the way, tasted like there was actually vodka in it, and came with the splash of olive juice, not in a dirty, spotted glass. My buddy's drink looked very potent and he reported it was “just what [I] need” (seriously, it was one of those Mondays!)
Because of the slow service, we were both able to get to the second drink before the Jumbo Prawns arrived. I enjoyed these quite a bit, since I’m a fan of simple dishes. The prawns were actually jumbo as described (there are a lot of places that call medium prawns “jumbo”) and cooked to perfection. Sauteed in a simple sauce of garlic, fresh tomato, basil, and lemon butter, served with crusty bread, this was a great dish for snacking or a light meal.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as pleased with the Tiger Prawn Quesadilla. When I make my prawn quesadillas I keep the shrimp whole. These were chopped very finely, almost worthy of a ceviche, so I’m sure that there were only about 3-4 in the entire dish. The menu stated the quesadilla came with chopped jalapenos, almonds, and garlic, all of which were barely noticeable in flavor and texture. I think they must have forgotten to bring it out and reheated it, because much of the cheese had assimilated into the tortilla, so it wasn’t the good gooey mess I was expecting. Lastly, the mango aioli drizzle was more like a couple of drops on top of the quesadilla, lending very little to the dish as a whole. It’s a dish I would not recommend or try again, though it did give me a couple of ideas for how to modify my current (and very awesome) Spicy Prawn Quesadillas (recipe coming this week).
Overall, Chops isn’t a bad place to hang out after a long day’s work; their drinks are good and that’s usually what Happy Hour is for. The food menu is a bit overpriced in general, but at least they deliver on certain items. Still, it’s a pretty good happy hour joint, and the steaks that were being taken to the regular diners did look quite tasty, so when this Poor Girl isn’t so poor, I might just give them a try.