I wasn’t planning on eating here until they had at least 2 months under their belt, so the first time I stopped by was only for drinks — namely, the Moscow Mule ($9) which has been getting such high praise from many of my friends. The fact that they make the ginger beer in-house fresh every single day for this purpose is enough for me to want a try. It was definitely one of THE best Moscow Mules I’ve ever tasted — I could taste the fresh ginger lingering on my palate after each sip.
Then a week later, Mahesh coaxes me to go for lunch and I agreed and found the feel very different during the day, less of a speakeasy, more of a chill hangout although the staff wears uniforms resembling the prohibition era. The decor is well-thought out with a ‘library’ theme in one room and shelves of books against a wall.
We start with Scotch egg ($6), which I’m really fond of and haven’t had once in north America until now. In Britain, typically, it is a hard boiled egg wrapped with ground seasoned meat, bread crumbs coated and deep fried.
At Chapter One, ground turkey is used and resembles a slice of meatloaf with a hard boiled egg in the middle. The Asian mustard mango sauce threw me off because I’ve only eaten them with gravy, but it’s a modernized version and I didn’t mind it. The texture is good, firm without being dry and hard and the mixed greens side salad acts as a good contrast.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Smoked Salmon Jerk Nachos ($11). It wasn’t quite what I had expected.
First of all, I wasn’t able to detect any jerk seasonings in the smoked salmon, nor did I particularly like the slightly sweet red tobiko on top. It did look pretty though. Served on crispy wonton skins and drizzled with citrus sour cream, it reminded me of a fusion appetizer from a rad sushi place, just without rice.
Italian Burger with Portabella ($12) was definitely a good choice, a suggestion by our bubbly server, Lindsay. The beef patty with Italian herbs is very flavorful, albeit a tad overcooked (we requested medium), but the roasted tomato relish and red lettuce added moisture while the portabella mushroom created an even meatier taste. I would’ve been happy with portabella alone!
The addition of a parmesan cheese crisp — a la Umami burger — adds a little decadence to ordinary cheese, lending it a good crunchy component. Although Mahesh didn’t care for the shoestring fries deeming them too difficult to eat, I loved their crispiness. The home made ketchup here is also outstanding. I loved its robust tomato taste with a slight tartness.
Our gluttonous selves couldn’t walk away without trying the Mac and cheese ($10) with white cheddar, fontina, pearl onions, smoky bacon, fried onions and finished off in the salamander with toasted panko on top.
The flavors were absolutely delightful and the bacon definitely helped. It was a little too runny for me and a little more cheese would’ve been awesome, but this is definitely something I would order again on my next visit.
Chapter One is definitely doing something right. Less than a month after opening, they are already receiving accolades by many and I can see why. The menu is well-thought through and the end result well-executed. I see myself adding this to my Santa Ana faves in no time.
Chapter One: The Modern Local
227 N Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701