First off, my advice for eating at San Chez is that if you are going to a Maroon 5 convert at Van Andel, make a reservation. We did so we were golden, but there were many who walked away, sobbing, and there was much gnashing of teeth. Or something like that.
It was my first visit to the bistro, not to be confused with San Chez Café, the San Chez store, or the San Chez gun – knife – BBQ grill outlet. The interior design was a little funky (for you jive turkeys out there), and included pillars covered with mirror shards, and a monkey. Not a real monkey, by the way – there would be health code violations for that.
As I hinted earlier, the place was packed, but we had a table by the window to watch hundreds of cars pulling into a nearby parking ramp. What entertainment! And that view was at no extra charge, by the way.
For me, the choice of beverage was easy: A pitcher of Sangria. There were three choice – white, red, and pink (a little white, a little red). White was the sweetest, red the least-sweet, and we decided on the red. It was good, and it went quick. There were either invisible aliens stealing my booze one sip at a time, or else I drank a lot. I’m leaning towards the former.
The first course was a loaf of bread. No picture, I know – how disappointing. But it was a tasty loaf of bread with olive oil Technical term.) Hard on the outside, soft on the inside, just like a police officer in a 70’s drama. Don’t eat all the bread right up front! I’ll explain shortly.
Our first tapas were the Empanadas. Filled with onion, potato, and garlic (not necessarily in that order) and served with aioli, these were tasty. The exterior was crispy, the interior creamy, and 100% good. Remember, this is tapas, which is Spanish for “you don’t get very much.” That explains why there are a lots of items I’m going to talk about.
Before we knew it, dish #2 had arrived, “La Costra de Trucha Alpina” – a.k.a. fish. There were a bunch of fancy little ingredients, but the main one was char. If you’ve never had it, it tastes like salmon, or at least the char we had at San Chez did. It was served with maple carrot mush (fancy name: coulis) which tasted like sweet potatoes. So I think they actually served us salmon with sweet potatoes, but I’m not going to sue. After all, it was very good – I especially like the crispy bits on top that, combined with the tenderness of the char, made for an interesting combination.
Time for “Pollo y Chorizo a la Plancha”, grilled chicken and chorizo. I was a fan of both, but the chorizo won me over. And luckily for me, Andrea started to pace herself and she gave me her leftover chorizo. Or maybe she was just being nice. The meats were tender and oh-so good. And it was Grand Rapids-area chorizo. If you didn’t know, chorizo is made from tigers, and yes, Grand Rapids has tigers. The city is full of them.
Gambas Asadas al Fuego – just the title sounded hot. And when you get down to the description, “fire roasted”, that reinforces that impression. “Banana mustard cream” doesn’t, but you don’t want to scare off the customers. The gambas (shrimp) had some kick to them, but they were not overwhelming spicy – I didn’t cry or anything. Well, not too much, but that was because I saw a cute kitten picture, and everyone cries when they see kittens.
Anyways, this is the dish where the bread comes in handy. Had I not eaten all the bread, it would have been perfect for lapping up the leftover sauce. Alas, I did eat it, so I had to use my socks, and those were not nearly as good.
Finally came the “Fritos de Arroz”, rice fritters with bacon and shrimp. These were my least favorite tapas. There was an odd taste to them – it reminded me of Drano or dish soap – I can’t place it, but it just didn’t work for me. I had to use the last of my sangria to wash it down. OK, they weren’t that bad, but they didn’t live up the high level of goodness that the previous dished had reached.
So go eat at San Chez. Excellent tapas, even better than the tapas at Burger King, if you can believe it. Eating there will not only provide you with some great food, it will also make you feel European and impress your friends. And fellas, ladies love guys that eat tapas.