LOCATED ON THE CORNER of an office building and elevated several steps above street level, Chaplos is wrapped on two sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls. At night, the restaurant glows like a bonfire in the dark. Inside, day or night, Chaplos is sleek and contemporary. The front half of the restaurant is brightly lit and airy; the back half, away from the windows, is moody and dim.
Chaplos not only offers diners a choice of lighting, but also works at providing local organic sourcing for fruits and vegetables; uses hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, fish and poultry; and keeps wine on tap.
Chef Norma Martinez, formerly of El Vitral, offers a menu that is at once familiar and quirky and very ambitious. Along with ceviche, salmon and hanger steak, there are empanadas, tomato soup and grilled eggplant with prosciutto. The result is an idiosyncratic mix of comfort food and fashionable fare.
As is typical with restaurants offering a very wide range of dishes, not every item is equally well prepared and the best dishes are the simplest ones. Take the handmade ravioli stuffed with squash and then topped with large shrimp and drizzled with a creamy, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce. It’s a complicated mix of flavors that’s less than the sum of its parts.
Alternatively, the grilled lamb chops are a total knockout: perfectly prepared, meaty, lamby, succulent and bargain priced to boot. The more straightforward the dish (i.e., braised pork ribs, grilled salmon, even grilled polenta with roasted tomatoes), the greater the success quotient.
Service: Extraordinarily personable and clearly aiming to please, but not particularly experienced.
Parking: Street parking, parking lots and valet service.
Special Diets: Fine for those who eat fish and vegetables. Other restricted-diet diners will have to tiptoe through the menu to find dishes that work for them.
Details: Open for lunch and dinner. At dinner, most starters run $7-$11 and most entrées $15-$23. Full bar.
925 B St., Downtown San Diego. 619-798-3888.
Restaurant Reviews: By Stephen Silverman • Photography by Martin Mann