to where: Chef Dave’s, a small restaurant that opened in May on Chestnut Hill’s The Street.
Why: Chef David Welch houses a classic American style restaurant within a cramped space. Chef Dave seats about 35, plus a few tables on the patio; You can see what’s in the kitchen, where Welch works. The menu is full of crab cakes, Caesar salad, fish and precious cuts of meat. Freshness is in the touches: duck wings instead of chicken, served jerk-style with cilantro pesto; Thyme crust for rack of lamb. Glaze mush on a special kurobata pork chop. This looks like a bistro, but it eats like the smallest restaurant in town.
Dramatic background: Welch started out as a banker, then discovered his love for food. He’s been in the industry for 30 years, spending time at Formaggio’s and as a private chef, among other services. He started his famous sidewalk barbecue in Formaggio. The smoked rib entrée on this menu looks like a leftover from that time.
what are you going to eat: If there’s a signature dish here, it’s half a lemon roasted chicken, made to order. That gives you 20 minutes or so to sip on a cocktail and savor grilled southwestern shrimp, those duck wings, or a green salad with fennel, beets, and pitas while you wait. The juicy, golden-skinned bird, drizzled with fresh herbs, comes atop thinly sliced roast potatoes with vegan beans. This is where Chef Dave is no Chop House: Sides tend to come with the dish (although you can order a few, such as truffle fries, to order). Grilled halibut comes with wilted spinach, soy cherry blossom, and Thai basil. Peeled salmon curry contains small bok choy. The 8-ounce filet mignon, the 14-ounce main strip, and the 22-ounce Rib-eye come with some variation on the theme of potatoes and/or green vegetables—maybe mashed Yukon radish, and maybe grilled asparagus. There’s a blue cheese burger with fries, and vegetarians have a great mountain of pasta pomodoro. Desserts tend to come in the form of chocolate mousse, layers of chocolate sponge cake or filled with strawberries and topped with ganache.
what do you drink: In my opinion, the bar is the place to sit at Chef Dave’s. It’s an elegant setting with a marble top and full view of the open kitchen. (Less background music than a nightclub might suit the venue better.) “I’m Antonio,” the waiter says to his customers heartily, then makes them something off the cocktail list, mirroring the menu in tone. These are the classics we know and love – Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Mojito, Manhattan. (I was so happy to see the Sidecar, perhaps my first favorite cocktail.) But the Aperol Twist includes aloe vera, and there’s Mot Chaud’s curveball: vodka infused with mirepoix, lemon, maraschino, cucumber, and spice. It tastes like Bloody Mary crossed with ice cream: Strange but good! Wine by the bottle hits the notes you’d expect for food and mood, with some fine, upscale selections.
Takeaway: Chef Dave’s features a classic restaurant menu, intimate room and parking – a magic formula for many diners.
3C Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-396-8489, www.chefdaves.com. Appetizers $14-$19, appetizers $22-$75, desserts $12.