IN THE KITCHEN Executive chef Jeff Williams of Chopps American Grill at the Marriott in Burlington grew up in the restaurant business. His grandfather owned a restaurant in Philadelphia, and for Jeff, the family routine of gathering fresh ingredients from the garden and cooking them for customers became a passion that translated into a career.
A desire to travel led him to Baltimore for culinary school, then to London and California, and a year ago to Chopps.
Williams calls Chopps's food "New American Cuisine," a contemporary take on the classic American chophouse. With consulting executive chef Daniel Bruce, he created a menu featuring seasonal dishes using fresh local ingredients, like beef from River Rock Farm in Brimfield.
Williams notes that diners are more sophisticated these days and do more traveling that exposes them to different flavors. He stays current to cater to these customers, particularly since the hotel receives many business travelers.
THE LOCALE Chopps features two dining areas. The Great Room allows for more casual dining with a living room feel that contains a bar, TVs, and couches. A glass fireplace stretches impressively across one wall.
The Dining Room is suited for more formal dining with a modern décor of polished stone and rough-stacked slate walls, with comfortable chairs for savoring the dining experience in a leisurely way.
ON THE MENU Chopps's menu includes soups, salads, steaks, fish, and pizza and ranges in price from $6 to $59.
Our vegetable chopped salad ($9) had a piquant taste of cider vinegar and included cucumber, dried sweet corn, chick peas, Kalamata olives, and tomatoes. Though dressed, the salad still tasted fresh.
The persimmon and beet salad ($10) with Cremont goat cheese from Vermont, black walnuts, and burnt orange vinaigrette had a slight earthiness from the red and yellow beets and a tangy sweetness from the persimmons, which are marinated in lime juice, and olive oil and grilled to marry the flavors. The gaminess of the goat cheese set off the dish well, as did the arugula.
The filet mignon ($39), sourced from Aspen Ridge, Colo., was cooked medium-well, precisely to order. It had a pleasant steak flavor, and the seasoning was not overbearing. Easy to cut and chew, it almost melted in the mouth. It was served with our choice of whipped potato sprinkled with chives and artfully arranged watercress.
Our 1½-inch thick salmon steak ($29) was surrounded by a mixture of three kinds of wild rice topped with a complex sauce of red kiri squash, cippolini onion, parsley, sorrel, pomegranate, molasses, and a cream sauce base. It was delicious.
Having tasted these extraordinary flavors, we just had to try dessert.
The apple cake ($9) was very good. Not too sweet, it was topped by a dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Made with local apples, this dish is a variation on a Jewish apple cake that Williams's mother's coworker served when he was a child.
The hazelnut cake ($9) also lived up to our anticipation. It featured a hard chocolate shell surrounding mousse and a crispy feuilletine cookie bottom, and was topped by a blackberry sorbet made with a port wine reduction that lent color and provided a sweet umami flavor.
All in all, our meals were a happy adventure in taste, and we were glad to make the journey.
Chopps American Bar and Grill, 1 Burlington Mall Road, Burlington. 781-221-6643,