On a November evening in 2000, Mary Ann Ferrie and her husband Dan Grimes opened Chloe, a quiet, unassuming BYOB just across the street from the Betsy Ross House. Word quickly spread about the couple’s approach to global cuisine and their dedication to simple, fresh ingredients.
As I wait for new restaurants to gain their kitchen legs, Edward and I retrieved a bottle of Malbac from the wine rack and headed over to Arch Street.
Chloe has about 40 seats in the candlelit dining room. Tables and chairs are fashioned from simple wood while tchotchkes take pride of place on the walls and shelves.
Our server brought us tasty homemade whipped hummus along with warm pita that spent time on the grill. He explained the specials in detail and left us to sip our wine and look over the menu.
Smoked trout ($13) took me right back to Sunday mornings at my home while growing up. It has a slightly salty flavor that was nicely offset by a dollop of horseradish cream, thinly sliced pickled cucumber, caper berries and a mound of nicely dressed, peppery watercress. Another serving of pita arrived since we quickly polished the first one off.
Another winning appetizer was Indonesian shrimp ($16). Finding the perfect balance of spice and sweet can be tricky, but Ferrie hit the mark here. She prepared a rich, tasty sauce of coconut milk and chili, which reduced to a fine consistency without breaking on the plate. Six shrimp were set on the grill and nestled on the pool of sauce. I squeezed on a bit of fresh lime juice and enjoyed a fine starter to my dinner. I even used my knife to scrape up and finish the sauce.
Ferrie and Grimes both cook. They have an instinct when it comes to sweet, sour, salt and spice. No one flavor overpowers the other.
This culinary instinct was evident in the grilled salmon ($22). A thick fillet was grilled until it was still translucent and set upon a bed of crisp polenta, a mix of sweet and sour eggplant topped with a basil pesto sauce. You might think too much was going on in the bowl, but it was not. All of the ingredients worked lovely here.
The only time I had to reach for the salt was to pep up my pork Milanese ($28). Two large slices of boneless pork loin were pounded thin, coated in panko crumbs and quickly sautéed until the meat turned a golden brown. Panko are crisp but a bit bland, so a hint of salt worked some magic. The pork was juicy, tender and not a bit overcooked. Any dish served alla Milanese is accompanied by an arugula salad.
Some chefs pile it on top of the veal, chicken or pork. Our delightful server advised it is served on the side. The spicy arugula was set off by grilled, smoky flavored baby artichokes, which are now in season, roasted red and yellow cherry tomatoes, tiny cubes of crispy potatoes — called potato croutons on the menu — and tossed in a lemon basil dressing. I thought the salad was a wee overdressed but tasty. The portions were so generous, Edward helped me to finish my dinner.
Desserts are made in-house. Bread pudding made with banana bread arrived warm and was topped with homemade, rich whipped cream ($7.50). I bake flourless chocolate cake during Passover and wanted to try Grimes’ version ($7.50). A hearty slice of rich, dense chocolate cake was set on large dollops of raspberry and blueberry coulis along with a scoop of chocolate hazelnut ice cream from The Franklin Fountain. It was a double-and-not-at-all-sweet chocolate delight.
Although the room could have been a bit brighter, the jazz playing softly on the sound system was the perfect background for our dinner.
Chloe will celebrate its 13th birthday in November. I think it has remained popular because Ferrie and Grimes, who both are graduates of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, believe in serving their guests good, honest fare. They are never trendy in the kitchen.
Three tips of the toque to Chloe.
232 Arch St.
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