Last week, we had the opportunity to celebrate the opening of a new Portland restaurant by two of our very favorite chefs. Chaval, by husband and wife duo Damien Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez (also of Piccolo), found a familiar home in the West End space that used to be Caiola’s. Following in the shoes of an old neighborhood favorite is never an easy task, but after sampling the outstanding French and Spanish comfort cuisine and cocktails, it seems to be one that they’re more than equipped to handle.
Chaval brings a fresh feeling to an old space. The dining room has been opened up and updated, and the kitchen is no longer hidden behind doors – instead, seamlessly integrated into the rest of the main room. This latter point being notable if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the talented chefs at work.
On our first trip (of what is sure to be many), Meredith and I changed it up a little and shared the coq au vin dinner for two. The red wine braised chicken was absolutely outstanding, and will be hard to beat for any future meals. With a bar program headed up by renowned Portland bartender Patrick McDonald, we added a delicious Aperitif Dunhill and a Spanish G&T; and as is the case with any dinner where Ilma is in the kitchen, we saved room for dessert – the decadent churros with hot chocolate sauce and salted sugar. Yes and please.
Chaval somehow manages to feel both new and fresh in a packed Portland food scene, while also familiar and comfortable, as if we’ve been patrons for years. I can’t wait to revisit this post in a decade, just to smile at how true that last part will be.
Photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.