Truckee, CA 96161
For my mom’s birthday I wanted to take her someplace special, somewhere that would remind us of our travels together and the hours spent in cozy cafes talking, nibbling, drinking wine and waiting for dessert. I thought the Chocolate Bar might do the trick and, for the most part, I was right.
There are now three Chocolate Bar locations: one in downtown Reno, one at Northstar-at-Tahoe and one at the Summit Reno. The décor at the Summit branch definitely calls to mind the cafes of Europe. While brown is the main color, it’s not overdone. The place is slick without being too slick—there is an element of bling provided by the massive, glossy, black chandeliers and the funky russet flowery wallpaper.
Unfortunately, the creature comforts do not live up to the aesthetics. The seats were not as comfortable as they were elegant: the booths were too far from the table, and we had to lean in awkwardly. It finally became so uncomfortable that we eventually just sat side by side with our food on our laps in order to talk better. Outdoor seating is available for sunny days.
The food style follows the European cafe “small plates” model—perfect for the Summit shopper to snack on. The menu options are both intriguing and numerous, so deciding was not easy. Would it be grilled satay: coconut curry-marinated chicken or sweet pineapple soy-marinated steak on skewers ($10/$12)? Or spicy calamari: pan sautéed in olive oil with white wine, garlic, sambal sauce and jalapeno spice ($9)? The artisan cheeseplate: a selection of cheeses, crisp green apples, candied nuts, fresh berries, sourdough crostinis, honey and Dijon sauce ($8)? Or cheese fondue: garlic, shallots, white wine, provolone and jack cheese served with vegetables, crisp green apples and breads, ($9 a head)?
Do you see what I mean?
We—finally!—settled on the crisp goat cheese: creamy goat cheese dusted in a panko mix, pan fried, drizzled with lavender honey, with crisp green apples and multigrain crackers ($9) and the French onion soup ($9).
And … we were initially a bit disappointed. Although we knew the portions would be small, we were alarmed at just how small. My meal consisted of two little bitty cheese balls and four thin slices of green apple in a modest bed of lettuce. The crackers were also a downer—contrary to the menu promise of multigrain, they appeared to be Ritz. My mom’s soup bowl was also spare, not quite halfway full, and no butter came with the bread. Still, these foibles notwithstanding, what we ate was extremely scrumptious. The lavender honey on my goat cheese gave it just the right touch, and the apples were wonderfully tangy. We ate daintily and slowly, which is the whole point with a meal like this, and in the end we had to confess we felt sated but not stuffed, and there was room left for dessert.
And here is where the Chocolate Bar really shines: chocolate fondue, chocolate cheesecake, champagne and strawberries, tiramisu and on and on until my mouth was watering. Mom chose the chocolate lava cake: rich chocolate cake with a warm, molten chocolate filling ($9). It was as delicious as it sounds. We savored its richness, slowly sipped our wine ($9-12/glass), and conversed. Now this was what we had come for.
While the Chocolate Bar isn’t perfect, it is a delightful change from fast-moving restaurants that stuff you up and push you through. I’m not saying there is never a place for that, but it’s also nice to find a cafe that appreciates this kind of portioning and class. So for those looking for something different, a place to eat modestly but well, drink even better and just be, the Chocolate Bar just might be it.