Chow Town

Chaz on the Plaza chef revamps menu with a focus on fresh and local

Chaz’s Colorado lamb chops are served with grilled chili garlic broccoli, toasted almonds, boulangerie potatoes, lemon verbena and hollandaise sauce.
Chaz’s Colorado lamb chops are served with grilled chili garlic broccoli, toasted almonds, boulangerie potatoes, lemon verbena and hollandaise sauce.

After a little more than a half year on the job, Chaz on the Plaza executive chef Joseph Cizek has rolled out a new menu. The menu, which includes four new summer salads, a charcuterie board and some impressive entrees, is Cizek’s first since he took over the helm at Chaz, the iconic restaurant of the Raphael Hotel.

Cizek took his time to make his mark on Chaz’s menus. “We needed to get a solid staff, hone the skills of the cooks we had and find out who needed and wanted to be here. I think we have a good team now, and it was time to say, “Let’s move forward guys,” Cizek said.

Cizek picked summer for his new offerings — lighter fare with as many local and fresh ingredients as possible. “I like different textures and temperatures. That, along with vibrant colors, are important to me when you’re talking about a summer menu,” he said.

Standouts for me on the Beginnings and Soup and Salad menu include the Pissaladiere, a French puff pastry dish with caramelized onions, oven-roasted tomatoes, arugula, anchovy and olive tapenade, and tomme de savoie; and the Melon & San Daniele Black Label Prosciutto, and Fava & Radish salads. Salads aren’t generally my first (or second) choice, but these two offerings had lovely balance and nice, palate-cleaning acidity thanks to the aged balsamic with the prosciutto and the Dijon vinaigrette on the fava and radish plating.

Off the Mains menu, I sampled the Colorado lamb chops, which is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been a fan of Colorado lamb since I filmed a segment of my television show, “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” on location with a shepherd and her flock in the mountains outside Aspen. This version, with pink peppercorn-dusted double chops, grilled chili garlic broccoli, toasted almonds, boulangerie potatoes, lemon verbena and a hollandaise sauce, is not for the faint of heart. Two could share this dish.

I also tried the seared ahi tuna, Georges Bank scallops, and grilled quail with chili-glazed pork belly. The scallops, with cauliflower puree, broccolini and pea butter, sang summer’s siren song for me, but both the scallops (perfectly prepared) and quail (delicious but a bit tricky to manage) had wonderful flavors, aromas and textures.

Cizek told me one of main goals now is to better identify the best local farmers and ranchers and start bringing more of their products onto the menus, which he said he’s hoping to change seasonally moving forward. Based on these new roll-outs (and the never-ending heat), I can’t wait to get back to Chaz this fall and see what Chizek has cooked up.

Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.

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