By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)
“Chloe certainly is dim,” I remarked to my companions as I walked into the small bar with Victorian furnishings near the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. My friend Chloe was sitting nearby but didn’t take offense – she trusted that I was referring to the light level rather than her brain power.
It makes sense that this establishment would evoke another era – it is situated in part of the lobby of a World War I-era grand hotel, and the chandeliers, mirrors, and sofas by candlelit low tables encourage a feeling of period style and intimacy. The menu doesn’t try to do the same – it’s contemporary rather than featuring canapés out of The Great Gatsby, but the bar turns out a pretty mean sazerac, boulevardier, and other old-style cocktails.
Man does not live by cocktails alone, so we decided to order an array of small plates to moderate the ethanol. I found the artichoke heart and burrata bruschetta topped with roasted pistachios attractive, and other members of my party ordered fried calamari with citrus aioli, the daily cheese board, and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese.
The dates have everything you could possibly want in a party snack – they’re sweet, smoky, crunchy, and have funky cheese flavors and a gooey interior, so when made right as they are here, they’re just about irresistible. The cheese platter was excellent too, and as is always the case, the excellence was due to more than prettily arranged milk products.
In this case, alongside the chunks of Humboldt Fog, Cabot cheddar, and Brillat-Savarin there were sliced apples, toasted baguette, nuts, and a delicate honey for dipping, spreading and pairing. I will admit to swooning over just about anything involving Humboldt Fog, but in this case the companion cheeses were also particularly well-chosen.
There was nothing particularly unusual about the calamari save for the citrus aioli that came with them, but they arrived almost too hot to touch – a feat when only one server was working the fairly full room. The artichoke bruschetta were very good too, but served in a small portion – just two pieces for $6, though they were rich enough that a even a bite or two was satisfying. I don’t offhand remember combinations of artichoke heart with pistachio before, but it’s a winner, and I’m going to experiment with those flavors at home.
The main courses at Chloe are conceptually a bit of an anticlimax after the stylish starters – four kinds of burgers and that is all, except for the Belgian-style fries and traditional onion rings that go down quite well with burgers. The Chloe Burger, with English cheddar and caramelized onions, was my favorite of the ones we tried, with the organic turkey burger a close second. Of course, if you have been hitting the bar’s selection of pre-Prohibition drinks along with the appetizers, by entrée time you’re probably thinking more about the alcohol absorption capacity of the various options (hint: probably the veggie burger). Even so, as good as the burgers are it would be nice to have something that comes closer to fitting the theme and style of the place.
Only one dessert was offered, a flourless chocolate cake, but that didn’t ring our bells so we decided to move on. Our food had run about $20 per person for lavish appetizers and four burgers, plus four cocktails at 12 bucks each. I might return for another full meal here, or come for appetizers before decamping for more of the same during a strolling tapas evening, but either way I’d consider the place again.
Chloe is at 1449 Second St. in Santa Monica. Open daily except Sunday at 6 p.m. Wheelchair access OK, parking in nearby lots. Website at barchloe.com. 310-899-6999.