Chardonnay Restaurant is "back in business" in Naples; after a year of closed doors, reborn as "Chardonnay Nouveau". There's new décor and a trim menu that ‘s half old and half, well... Nouveau! SEE ADDENDUM AT BOTTOM.
Customers were warmly greeted on opening night, September 17,2007 , by Executive VP Diana Shapiro and Manager Ryan Bradley, and were pleasantly surprised by the changes. I’d always dined with jacket at Chardonnay Restaurant over the past 15 years, sat in the same stuffy oversized ornate chairs, and while the menu never changed, the service and food quality did fall a bit during the last year it was open under prior Manager Rene's helm. It closed for a year. That's now history.
There's more than an attractive facelift here, besides the refurbishing and the name change, and it’s a most welcome change. The décor is sharper, smarter and more open, with fewer tables and more room to walk. There are 3 dining rooms and a bar area, and my room had tasteful beige walls, light wood accents, and a maroon carpet with a gold filigree design. John Coltrane’s jazz gently played, and diners could talk at a normal level. The oversized chairs have been replaced by sleek taupe or red chairs. Before, when seated, I felt claustrophobic in an overdone French retirement home, now the attractive sleek décor, space between tables and dropping the mandatory jacket rule attracts a much more diverse clientele.
Lee, our server, a Sommelier and a CIA trained chef, had a professional demeanor and suggestions that were spot on. I enjoyed the peachy light taste of a French Bellini ($10) as an aperitif, and started with the lobster bisque ($9), Nouveau style, with the creamy bisque topped with chunks of lobster tail and lemon zest, to give a distinct new citrus accent.
Other diners favored Exec Chef Claude Chauvin's Tandoori Tuna Tataki ($13), with fried Ahi tuna and a lemongrass ginger sauce over a cucumber julienne. Lee recommended a glass of Faively Burgogne ($9), a Cote de Beune burgundy, as a welcome counterpoint for my Classique Veal Duet ($33). The veal tenderloin was tender, perfectly cooked medium rare, and was lightly seared on top and bottom. The veal sweetbreads were prepared classic style, lightly floured and pan sautéd to create a rich balance of textures and tastes. The veal duet was paired with a delicate morel mushroom sauce, that let the duet properly steal the show. These were plated on a Villeroy and Boch white dish with artfully placed asparagus sections and a quartet of haricot vert. The piped sweet potatoes and a mound of spaghetti squash were subtle and unobtrusive. A savory signature dish.
Other diners were happy with the NY Strip au Poivre ($39) and the “Cowboy” Ribeye ($48) with its creamy gorgonzola bordelaise sauce. Dover Sole ($35) seems like it will be a signature dish, at a very good pricepoint. The Grilled Sea Bass ($30) was a nicely plated and properly cooked large portion, accented by black olives, fresh tomato, capers, sweet orange and white wine butter sauce. One couple recommended the Maine Lobster Ragout ($36), simmered in a Riesling wine sauce with mushrooms, dill, cucumber and gnocchi. The Mignonette of Beef Madagascar ($29), a trio of 3 oz. filet of beef , sautéed with shallots, brandy and a green peppercorn sauce, got thumbs up.
I’ve had two birthdays over the years at Chardonnay, topped off with their Classique Chocolate or Grand Marnier Soufflé. Keeping in the Nouveau spirit, I selected the new Raspberry Soufflé ($12) in its traditional white ramekin. It's generous serving of raspberry sauce on the side was properly just a touch tart. The Grand Marnier Soufflé may be the favorite-your call. One may choose from other desserts: a classique
Do leave a comment with your impression of Chardonnay Nouveau below.
Grilled Sea Bass
Chocolate and Fruit
ADDENDUM May 10, 2008
Chef Claude Chauvin has left Chardonnay Nouveau after many years of service. The new Executive Chef, Mark Guilbault, also owns Dinners by Design, a popular catering company in town. I've tried his cooking at Chardonnay, and it's a seamless change for diners at Chardonnay. Chef Greg Shapiro also cooks at Chardonnay, and he is well regarded for his catering service, Tastebuds of Naples. I look forward to a new menu evolving soon, from their repertoir.
Manager Chris Sliter is no longer with Chardonnay.
Chardonnay Nouveau- 2331 Tamiami Trail North, Naples (239) 261-3111