Review of Chapter One : The Modern Local – Amazing Food, but unexpected subplots

18 Dec

Entrance to Chapter One, the Modern Local

Entrance to Chapter One, the Modern Local

For the past two years I had been hearing a steady buzz about a restaurant called Chapter One: The Modern Local. This restaurant is located in the hipster chic Downtown Santa Ana, just down the street from The Playground. When we walked into the dining room, the mood was humming like a bee hive with  the sounds of merriment over food and cocktails. The decor of Chapter One looks like a Victorian era library  that has been converted to a speakeasy, with dark woods, book shelves, and retro-modern red stained pendulum lights. Chapter One is one of the new wave of modern gatropubs taking over the Orange County dining scene, offering premium beer, craft cocktails and high-end gastropub fare over the steady pulse of deep house music.

Interior Right

TMenu Mainhe menu of Chapter One: The Modern Local is based on local and seasonal ingredients, so you can expect  many items on the menu to change regularly. The menu places a and has a heavy focus on  Modern American Gastropub fare that pushes the limits on ingredient and preparations styles. Some more interesting items on the snacks menu includes things like Calamari with Black Squid in vinaigrette, tempera frog legs and Bourbon Scallops. The snacks also featured a salute to local produce with an “Organic O.C. Vegetable Basket” ,featuring vegetables from local O.C. farms. Here is what we ordered:

 

Cocktails:

Belly of the Beast:

A bourbon based cocktail made with house made bacon Bourbon. Yes I did just say bacon infused bourbon!  Chapter One has a machine that extracts oils and flavors from botanicals (and bacon) to make their own infused liquors. Very cool process, but I digress. The Belly of the Beast cocktail also contains Luxardo cherry liqueur  Dolin vermouth, and Kampot tincture.  Although this drink sounds like a mad scientist drink, I assure you that it tasted like a classic cocktail with a modern spin. This cocktail had an overall bourbon driven flavors, but had a wonderful medley of flavor layers. The flavor notes included a hint of saltiness from the bacon, sweet from the cherry liqueur  botanicals from the vermouth and a slight spice from the Kampot Peppercorn tincture. An engaging cocktail, just like your favorite murder mystery novel. I am a huge fan of Prohibition era bourbon cocktails, see my other review of “Broadway’s Fall Cocktails”

Belly of the Beast - Made with house infused bacon bourbon

Belly of the Beast – Made with house infused bacon bourbon. Don’t be afraid of the bacon, it just adds a pleasant hint of salty and savory

Blueberry Fizzzzzzzz

A gin based cocktail  made from City of London dry gin, Midnight Moon moonshine, Perucci white vermouth, Littet Aperiff Wine, Chase Elderflower liqueur  fresh blueberry and basil infused soda. There were many different things happening in this cocktail; although, the consummation of blueberry and floral bouquets is the common flavor thread that carries the drink. The cocktail has a balanced sweet flavor and a gentle effervescence delivering a  pleasant flora bouquet to the nose.

Blue Berry Fizzzz cocktail a sweet and botanical cocktail with a perfect balance

Blue Berry Fizzzz cocktail a sweet and botanical cocktail with a perfect balance

Dinner:

Beef Culotte

An interesting and savory dish that got my attention.  This dish is comprised of a Culotte cut of the beef tenderloin  that is dry rubbed with a coffee and coco powder and  then wrapped in thick cut bacon. The bacon wrapped beef loin is then pan seared and cooked to my specified medium rare.  The Chef then deglazed the pan with a red wine to create the demi-glaze sauce to garnish the plate. The Beef Culotte was served atop a Dijon infused smashed potato. The natural beef and bacon flavors were dominant on the palate, but the coffee and coco dry rubs added subtle notes. I really liked how the tangy flavor of the Dijon potatoes mellowed out the rich proteins in the  dish. I would have licked the plate if that was socially acceptable.

Beef Cullate - A nice cut of meat rubbed in Coffee/Coco powder, wrapped in bacon and pan seared. Yummmmm

Beef Cullate – A nice cut of meat rubbed in Coffee/Coco powder, wrapped in bacon and pan seared. Yummmmm

Aside:culotte steak = top sirloin cap steak  This is a small, boneless steak cut from the sirloin. This cut of steak has amazing flavors, although tends to be a little tougher than other loin cuts. It is best cooked with a fatty medium like Bacon or a slow cooking method. Curious where  rib-eye comes from?

The Italian Burger

The Italian Burger is made with a “Special Beef Blend”, roasted tomato relish, provolone cheese, a large Parmesan cheese crisp, portobello mushroom, basil aioli and served with duck fat fries. This burger had a very impressive ingredient list that provided many layers of flavor and texture. When I bit into the burger’s outer edge I had the most wonderful flavor and texture profile. Although as I chewed the meat,  it was not as juicy as expected. Upon examination, the meat with cooked  medium-well/almost well-done. The Italian burger was  standing in the shadow of its own glory; this burger really could have knocked my socks off if it was cooked medium to medium –rare.  I would normally have sent the burger back, but we were running late to an ugly sweater party. Fortunately the flavor made up for the overcooked meat; it was a bitter-sweet experience.

Italian Burger Close

The Duck fat fries

Duck fat fries came as a compliment to the burger and was prepared flawlessly. The fries are deep-fried in Duck Fat!  As a result, you get a pleasant rich flavor and a crispy exterior. The duck fat fries were served with a house made ketchup that has a sweet flavor profile, perfect accompaniment to the fries. If you are a French fry aficionado, you should try these once.

Duck Fat Fries are fried in real Duck Fat! Served with house made sweet Ketchup!

Duck Fat Fries are fried in real Duck Fat! Served with house made sweet Ketchup!

Dessert

 Red Velvet Doughnut

We ordered dessert, because we are adults and there were no parents telling us no :).  We selected the Red Velvet doughnut because it just sounded awesome. Two moist and rich strawberry red-velvet doughnuts sandwiched a healthy dollop of Kampo Pepper Ginger infused cream cheese frosting. This dish was very close to being awesome, although we both found that  there was way too much  pepper ginger mixed into the cream cheese frosting.  As a result of the over application of pepper ginger,  we were distracted by the zing and had a hard time tasting the red-velvet doughnut. We still ended up eating the entire dessert, although we would have enjoyed it more if they throttled back on the ginger.

Red Velvet Doughnut - Great taste, but too much ginger pepper

Red Velvet Doughnut – Great taste, but too much ginger pepper

 

My Final Thoughts

Exterior Looking InOverall an amazing dinner experience, with some minor hiccups. Chapter One: The Modern Local is pretty impressive restaurant that is helping to shape the modernization of the Down Town Santa Ana district into a dinning destination. I really liked the creativity of the dishes at this restaurant and strong focus on craft cocktails and beers. I will be back to experience their delicious cocktails and meals. I am sure that the troubling sub-plots were an anomaly to the otherwise wonderful dinning experience. I will be visiting again soon for their brunch and will be reporting back with an update.

Chapter One: The Modern Local on Urbanspoon

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Tom Holmberg

Food Blogger / Founder at Tom's Foodie Blog
Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Tom’s Foodie Blog’s Favorite Meals of 2012 (Orange County edition) | Tom's Foodie Blog - January 2, 2013

    [...] Chapter One: The Modern Local – A very impressive gastro-pub meal and classic cocktails. Although there were a couple misses during our visit, I am still craving to go back.  I recommend the steak cullate with the Belly of the Beast Bacon Bourbon cocktail. Trust me, you will be craving to go back for more. My Review of Chapter One. [...]

  2. OC Restaurant Week – My Top Restaurant Choices 2013! | Dani's Decadent Deals - February 25, 2013

    [...] these three links to see my husband’s reviews about their food in detail:  Five Crowns Article, Chapter One Article, & Steakhouse [...]

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