Where to: Chef Dave’s, a bistro-esque restaurant that opened in May at Chestnut Hill’s The Street.
Why: Eponymous chef David Welch houses a classic American-style restaurant inside a diminutive space. Chef Dave’s seats about 35, plus a few tables on the patio; you can see into the kitchen, where Welch is at work. The menu is stocked with crab cakes, Caesar salad, fish, pricy cuts of meat. The frisson lies in the touches: duck wings instead of chicken, served jerk-style with cilantro pesto; a za’atar crust for the rack of lamb; harissa glaze on a Kurobuta pork chop special. This feels like a bistro, but it eats like the town’s tiniest chophouse.
The backstory: Welch got his start as a banker, then discovered his love of food. He’s been in the business for 30 years, spending time at Formaggio’s and as a private chef, among other gigs. He started Formaggio’s popular sidewalk barbecue. An appetizer of smoked ribs on this menu feels like a vestige of that time.
What to eat: If there’s a signature dish here, it’s the lemon roasted half-chicken, made to order. That gives you 20 minutes or so to sip a cocktail and tuck into grilled Southwestern shrimp, those duck wings, or a green salad with fennel, beets, and pepitas while you wait. The bird comes juicy and golden-skinned, flecked with fresh herbs, over thin-sliced roast potatoes with haricots verts. This is where Chef Dave’s isn’t a chophouse: sides tend to come with the dish (although you can order a few, like truffle fries, a la carte). Pan-seared halibut comes with wilted spinach, cherry blossom soy, and Thai basil. Curry-crusted salmon features baby bok choy. The 8-ounce prime filet, the 14-ounce prime strip, and the 22-ounce prime ribeye all come with some variation on a theme of potatoes and/or green vegetable — maybe horseradish Yukon mash, maybe grilled asparagus. There’s a blue cheese burger with fries, and for vegetarians a gorgeous mountain of pasta pomodoro. Desserts tend to come in a theme of chocolate mousse, layered with chocolate sponge cake or filled with strawberries and coated in ganache.
What to drink: To my eye, the bar is the place to sit at Chef Dave’s. It’s a classy spot with a marble top and a full view of the open kitchen. (Less nightclubby background music might suit the place better.) “I’m Antonio,” the bartender says warmly to his patrons, then makes them something from the cocktail list, which echoes the menu in tone. These are classics we know and love — the daiquiri, the Old Fashioned, the mojito, the Manhattan. (I was so happy to see a Sidecar, perhaps my first favorite cocktail.) But an Aperol Twist includes aloe vera, and there’s the curveball Mot Chaud: vodka infused with mirepoix, lime, maraschino, cucumber, and spices. It tastes like a Bloody Mary crossed with a gimlet: Weird but good! Wine by the glass and bottle hits the notes you’d expect for the food and the mood, with some fine high-end selections.
The takeaway: Chef Dave’s features a classic restaurant menu, an intimate room, and parking — a magic formula for many diners.
3C Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-396-8489, www.chefdaves.com. Appetizers $14-$19, entrees $22-$75, desserts $12.