509 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
3896 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Open: Thursday-Sunday 9am-12am & Friday-Saturday 9am-1am
Downtown could use a couple more places like Chocolat (yes, just like the Johnny Depp movie). It’s concept, interior, and menu are all unique to any other place I’ve lunched at in Downtown San Diego. It doesn’t matter what you’re mood –whether it be for a sweet treat, a fresh salad, or a hearty bowl of pasta, Chocolat fulfills each and every craving. Not to mention any restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously and uses a LARGE cartoon cow as its “mascot”, gets good marks in my book.
Speaking of cows, the decor is a somewhat tribute to them. The smaller space is maximized by the use of humble little tables paired with cushioned leather and cow fur upholstered, stump-sized stools. (You also can’t miss the weirdly fancy cow mural on the back wall!). Find an open stool if you plan to stay and sit for your meal or you can easily order your to-go and dessert items at the counter, where they’re temptingly displayed.
The menu proved to be a bit difficult to tackle. The front and back of it is covered with a variety of different items, all of which are appealing in their own way. They even break up the items into thirteen categories: Greens, mozzarelle, cold plates, bruschette, grilled panini, flatbreads, pasta specials, savory crepes, sweet crepes, desserts, breakfast, gelato, and specialty gelato coppas–I don’t know if that was supposed to make it easier, but I think you’re beginning to see where the decision-making dilemma comes in to play.
It could’ve been the pressure from the server asking us twice already if we had decided (can’t beat the overly attentive wait-style!), but I finally zeroed in on the Portobella & Brie Panini and an Iced Pomegranate Green Tea (the Ginger Peach Iced Tea sounded equally as refreshing but it’s only offered in decaf and I NEED my caffeine). My panini came out beautifully; the brie was creamy, the mushrooms were rustic, and the bread, drizzled with olive oil, had the perfect amount of crunch. Next to the grilled sandwich sat a few green olives in their own individual dish. They looked almost good enough to eat. The salty bitterness of olives does NOT appeal to me, but I know olive fans would be more than delighted with these marinated morsels. I do wish the panini was a little bit bigger only because I didn’t care for the small side dish. Had I known olives came with it, I might’ve asked for a substitution to make it a little more substantial meal.
Lunch was good, don’t get me wrong, but let’s get into what Chocolat is so blatantly about: DESSERT! We’ll start with the fresh crepes. The batter is homemade and doesn’t hit the hot pan until you order it. Fill, or top, your paper thin, delicate “pancake” with seasonal berries, nuts, honey or chocolate to name a few. Don’t be shy–add a scoop of your favorite gelato for only $2 more!
Of course an Italian bistro wouldn’t be complete without the gelato. Chocolat makes 35 different flavors on the premises everyday! (selections change daily) From your traditional Strawberry, White Chocolat, and Hazelnut, to the not so common Blood Orange, Poppy Seeds & Honey, and Chili Chocolat. Enjoy this creamy confection in a cup or a sugar or waffle cone. They encourage you to relax and savor your gelato on site, or take some home in their special to-go packaging.
They also offer Specialty Gelato Coppa, meaning Italian sundae. They have uniquely designed four different sundaes pairing their cool gelato with the perfect combination of toppings. Or keep your sweet tooth a bit more discreet by inconspicuously sipping a Coppa Frappe (smoothie) with the luscious gelato of your choosing.
If you’re crazy and none of these options appeal to you, Chocolat has even MORE desserts to please San Diegans. They are literally whipping up chocolate mousse, souffle, ganache, and cheesecake, along with fresh fruit tarts, creme brulee, and tiramisu. You can also try their affogato caffe, or vanilla gelato soaked in espresso. This quaint little bistro is packing a lot of creativity and flavor into every dish for each meal of the day! The sweet fragrance you’ll smell from the street will single handedly lure you in and the quality of their products will keep you coming back!
We also happen to be nibbling on a delish Lemon Tart with a homemade whipped cream as I write this. With a bright fresh flavor, that isn’t overly weighed down with sugary sweetness, I can personally recommend this light, summery treat, topped with a fresh sprig of mint, even in my to-go box. Nice touch.
MIX TIP: Can’t think of what to get that special someone? Chocolat will help you find the perfect thing you need to celebrate special occasions, holidays, or simply say you care.
By: Tara Imperatore