CHOP kind of bugs me. So what? It’s a good chain steakhouse

Dining | by Aidan Morgan

CHOP Steakhouse & Bar
2605 Gordon Road
3.5 out of 5

Greetings! I’m a 34- to 49-year-old male in a relationship who has disposable income and enjoys books, movies and culinary experiences — so it’s without hesitation that I include myself in the core demographic for CHOP Steakhouse and Bar.

As I pull up to CHOP in a taxi/Uber/folding bike, I can be certain my time here will be precisely calibrated for maximum extraction of enjoyment. Also, their smoked rib-eye is straight-up fantastic.

Regina has a tradition of dimly lit steakhouses with absurdly expensive bottles of cognac on the menu, but chains like The Keg have also been around for a while as well, scooping up a different crowd that wants a less fancy and more fashion-forward evening. Now there’s CHOP Steakhouse and Bar, which will cook you a great steak but also make you feel like you’ve been seated inside a man’s shaving kit. Which isn’t so bad, really — it’s certainly better than the exterior, which is the usual antisocial mall parking lot cube facing away from the street like a surly toddler. I suppose this isn’t the restaurant’s fault; it’s just the usual anti-human architecture that makes the edges of our city feel like a Soviet theme park parody of modern capitalism.

(Stray thought: have I hit peak restaurant critic jerkishness in this review? Very possibly yes.)

The first time I tried CHOP, I called to make a reservation. The hostess explained they were booked up until at least 8:00, but not to worry — they keep a block of tables open for walk-ins.

In theory, this is the greatest idea in restaurant history. In practice, it meant that we ended up in the lounge, which is where all the loudest pop hits of the ’90s, ’00s and today went to die the death they richly deserve be played at insane volume. It took five minutes for my ears to adjust to the point where I could have a conversation. If it’s tough for someone in his forties to deal with the music, think what it’ll be like when you take your grandparents on a spontaneous visit. The dining area is quiet. Make those reservations.

The other thing I noticed as Kesha shouted at me about dental hygiene was the sheer number of staff surrounding our table. There were servers in slacks, dresses or smart dark shirts and guys in blazers with headsets looped discreetly about their faces. All of them stopped at our table and asked how we were doing. We were doing just fine, because the volume of staff meant that our needs were seen to with great speed. It was hyper-efficient chaos and sort of breathtaking to watch.

Let me start with my favourite thing on the menu: the Smoked Rib-Eye ($38.95, and more than justifies its price). Smoked on site with applewood, this thing was magic. The smoking process gave it a slightly odd bluish-grey tint (or maybe that was just the lighting?), but the flavour was deep and smoky, as if a piece of steak were coming out as jerky-curious. There was a sauce on the side, but if you’re ordering smoked steak, you want to taste smoked steak. One of the blazer-and-headset guys crouched down beside me for a minute to get my opinion and enthuse about it. Together we enthused.

The side vegetables were sauteed kale and yellow beets — a good change from the carrots or peas of traditional steakhouses. I also had the wasabi mashed potatoes, which were more smashed than mashed. All potato enjoyers should try them.

My dining companion tried the Mushroom Sirloin ($26.95), which came with a brandy demi-glace with Portabella and crimini mushrooms (random fungus fact: button, crimini and Portabella mushrooms are all the same species of mushroom harvested at different stages of growth). For a few dollars more she chose the “CHOP Experience,” which adds an iceberg wedge salad, French onion soup and the opportunity to say “Yes I’ll have the chop experience” with a straight face.

“Experience the CHOP!” is a thing I did not shout.

For appetizers, we tried the Prime Rib Yorkies ($11.95), which were miniature yorkshire puddings stuffed with prime rib, the Albacore Tuna Tataki ($11.95), which came with thin slices of daikon and seared tuna, and the Steak Bites ($15.95), which is what you order when you crave steak so badly that you want some steak before your steak.

The results weren’t as consistent once we strayed from the beef portion of the menu. My biggest disappointment was the Lobster Dip [NOTE: This was misidentified as Lobster Fettucine in the print edition —Ed.], which felt light on lobster. Mind you, I grew up down the road from a lobster pound, so you may be satisfied with CHOP’s existing lobster levels. The Roasted Mushroom Ravioli ($18.95) had a cream base that made the dish unnecessarily heavy.

Despite CHOP’s more calculated aspects it’s worth a visit. Stick with the steaks, make reservations and you’ll probably have a great time.

But if you still can’t derive maximum enjoyment from your CHOP experience? Hey, there’s a Swiss Chalet next door.

The Round Table: CHOP Steakhouse

WHAT IS IT? A branch of the culinary-entertainment complex that happens to have some really good steak.

WHAT’S IT FOR? Lunch, supper, drinks, dessert.

IS IT STYLISH? Funny you should ask. CHOP has 12 locations stretching from Edmonton to London, Ontario, and all of them are branded as a “stylish steak restaurant”. Except for Regina’s, which is a “steak, prime rib & seafood restaurant”. I guess Regina doesn’t want to be too fancy or nothin’. Don’t bother with them adjectives and just tell me what I’m gonna get. (Seriously, even the Winnipeg airport CHOP is worthy of being “stylish”.)

WHAT SHOULD I EAT? You should eat the smoked rib-eye, but any big slab of beef will do.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT IF I DON’T LIKE BEEF? There’s the short rib, which — oh wait. Say, what are you doing at CHOP if you don’t like beef? In all seriousness, there’s a seafood portion of the menu, but the non-steak dishes I tried didn’t bowl me over.

WHEN CAN I GO THERE? Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

WHAT DOES KESHA THINK ABOUT DENTAL HYGIENE? On her 2009 hit “Tik Tok”, Kesha claims to brush her teeth with bourbon — so I’ll go out on a limb and guess “not very much”.