Thursday, November 18, 1999
Cozied up right next to the bay with one of the best locations on Cannery Row, the Chart House was ready for a new look, and got one. Part of a restaurant group that operates more than 50 properties from Hawaii to the Big Apple, the recent remodel is a vestige of a much larger, system-wide revitalization focused on updating the architectural design and revamping menus, dialing in to each unique locality.
"We're confident that the new menu will inspire a wonderful new dining experience, without compromising the casual and fun atmosphere," notes General Manager Shannon Renner. That's confidence that comes from listening to what their segment of a loyal dining public had to say. With restaurants in popular "vacation" venues all over the country, Chart House attracts a chunk of repeat clientele to a varied number of sites. Responding to market trends that called for restructuring menus and lowering prices, guests can still find trademark Chart House menu standards like crusty prime rib with horseradish sauce and Kona fried onions with the added bonus of shelling out significantly less dough than in the not too distant past.
One way they've managed to cut prices is to adopt a strictly a la carte menu. The overwhelming 40-item salad bar is now an option that you simply don't choose without an appetite to match. Other side dishes--like the gargantuan baked potato, a mountain of fresh asparagus, the pile of marinated sauteed mushrooms or heaping plate of gratin potatoes--are plenty ample for sharing.
The other major menu makeover is the emphasis given to fresh seafood specialties. Choose from a selection of local halibut, Alaskan salmon or Hawaiian ono or opaka paka on any given night, then mix 'n' match the preparation that's to your liking--like the black and white sesame seed crust and Szechuan stir-fried vegetables and Oriental-style sauce. Along with the classy new front-of-the-house retro look and the conspicuous absence of Hawaiian-attired waitstaff (bistro-style shirts and trousers give the new sartorial salute), you may not at first realize where you are. The remodel also took out some walls and opened the place up, making it more comfy for large parties and banquets.
Used to be, if you thought "Chart House," you immediately thought oversized, charcoal-grilled steak and baked potato to match. While big chunks of beef are not in danger of losing their place on the menu, there's now the option of glazed rack of lamb. And vying for the top slot in popular demand is now the ahi tuna found on the new menu. Grilled medium-rare, it's marinated in a mixture of Myers rum and brown sugar that gets a further glaze of teriyaki sauce, making for a yummy caramelized crust. Garnished with fresh mango relish, it's just the thing to balance out the heat in the chipotle mayo dressing.
The wine list hasn't been overlooked in the new re-do. If you like to skip around and try on new wines for size, you'll like the Wine Flights on the list. A changing offering of four two-ounce pours are a fun way to sample several before committing to a full bottle.
To accompany the grilled ahi, the Raymond Chardonnay, crisp and fruity with flavors of green apple, does a nimble number next to the smoky chipotle.