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Chappell’s Coral Grill

Out of a possible five
$$$

Fish rule, no bones about it

Following a flurry of openings and closings, Chappell’s Coral Grill seems to have found a permanent home, after a year and a half in Covington Plaza.

First there was the expansion to Dupont Road, followed by a closing; then a third location on Coldwater Road, which also closed after a short run, and then the legendary original spot off of Broadway shut its doors for the move southwest.

And the things that made the longtime purveyor of seafood so enjoyable can still be found at the new location from the crab slaw to the Australian lobster tail to the décor, much of which came from the original store. And I liked the new place.

There were some phenomenal appetizers, a delectable piece of salmon and service that never missed a beat even when in the line of fire. There were flaws, too, but I left feeling good about Chappell’s and feeling good about returning in the future.

The best thing I ate at the Coral Grill was hands-down the Faroe Island salmon, which was a feature one night. I asked for this so-fatty-it-was-almost-buttery piece of salmon blackened, and it was executed perfectly. The spice level was just right, the skin was crisp and the fish was so mild and delicious.

The tuna appetizer was also top-of-the-line. It, too, was seared well enough to give the exterior a little texture, the fish was super fresh and I really loved the little garnish of vinegar-spiked salsa made from cucumber, tomato and carrot. It was a refreshing change from the normal soy, wasabi and pickled ginger, which was also provided.

The oysters casino appetizer also struck the right note with nicely browned cheese, salty bacon, chopped tomatoes and just the right amount of Tabasco topping creamy, not-too-briny oysters. I think I could have eaten a bucketful of them.

I also loved the crab cakes. These two small cakes were nicely browned but plenty moist inside and full of sweet, tasty crab. My only criticism was that they came with tartar sauce, instead of something more interesting.

The featured twin filets au poivre sounded just as promising as the salmon, but it was a dish that failed not once, not twice, but three times.

The first serving looked beautiful with its caramel brown, peppercorn-dotted sauce oozing down the sides of the perfectly prepared, tender pieces of steak. But – after the longest wait for any course during my visits – it was cold and had to be sent back.

The second version was practically sizzling like a fajita when it arrived, the sauce looked just as enticing and the meat was seared so well it was almost crispy. But it was blue and raw in the middle and had to be sent back again.

My server, who was clearly rattled and could not stop apologizing at this point, reassured me that the next steaks would be right because the executive chef stepped in to prepare them himself. And she was right, they were nicely medium-rare and plenty warm, but that gorgeous sauce was gone, replaced by a white sauce dotted with diced red pepper instead of peppercorns.

I sucked it up and enjoyed the steak – which was properly on the house, as was a dessert for my dining companion who had long ago finished eating – but did ask about the sauce. My server said the executive chef just makes his differently. No, he made it wrong. Poivre literally means pepper.

The only other glitches were pretty minor with the most major of those being that Chappell’s crab slaw, which I have enjoyed immensely over the years, seemed to be a bit scant on crab this time. I did, however, bite down on one big shard of crab shell in it. The clam chowder and house salad were surprisingly better starters. The salad had a lot of feta and black olives, and the soup was blended just enough so there were tiny bits of clam, carrot, potato and red onion here and there.

The Caesar salad would have been at least mediocre if it had fresh croutons, which is something a place like Chappell’s should provide. I also had garnish issues with dessert. My Key lime pie was drenched in sugary lime and strawberry syrups, which overpowered the pie. That lime syrup also found its way onto my carrot cake, along with vanilla cream and chocolate syrups. A little syrup is OK, but at least make sure the syrup matches the dessert.

And although similar to the former Chappell’s incarnations, the décor is a bit too hokey. This space was once slick, modern and one of the most impressive in town when it was Opus 24. It is still upscale and tidy, but the deep sea diver statue, giant model boats draped with rope lights and the etched glass room divider that could double as a pet store front window need to go.

Restaurant: Chappell’s Coral Grill

Address: 6328 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Phone: 456-9652

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Cuisine: Steak and seafood

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: No

Menu: Seared tuna ($11.95), oysters ($11.95), crab cakes ($10.95), chowder ($4.25), salmon ($23.95), carrot cake ($6), Key lime pie ($4.25)

Rating breakdown:

Food: **

(3-star maximum);

atmosphere: 1/2 (1 max., service: * (1 max.

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall) and he can be heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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