At Your Service
It’s reader-service week here at Chow, Baby headquarters – not in the traditional journalistic “we’re here to serve the reader” use of the phrase, which is fine and all, but Chow, Baby prefers the kind where readers themselves perform the services.
Where readers check out new restaurants and send in mini-reviews, preferably including prices, hours, and deDELETEive adjectives. Then Chow, Baby does all the work of enjoying a guaranteed-good meal. It’s not as easy as Chow, Baby makes it look, of course.
So many adjective-adroit readers wrote in about Al Covo (7618 Camp Bowie Blvd. West) that Chow, Baby probably could have written a review without going there at all. But that would be unethical, and more to the point, this Italian restaurant sounded too wonderful to miss. And it is – on the inside. Outside, Al Covo occupies a plain building with a pothole-y parking lot and a great view of an O’Reilly’s. But the inside is a cozy delight: tomato-red walls and (fake) brick trim, soundtrack ranging from Pat Metheny to real jazz. The only detractor from the romantic atmosphere is the stained drop-panel ceiling, but that’s hard to notice in the dim lighting anyway.
Service and food are a matched pair: “marvelous” (that’s reader Judith’s adjectival contribution). From fresh-baked Italian bread with roasted-garlic dipping oil (free) to housemade chocolate cake layered with ganache ($4.50), every plate elicited “Boy, can that guy cook!” (Reader Michael said that first, but Chow, Baby dittoes.) And the little extras – an appetizer of stuffed eggplant ($7.50) rested on pesto cream sauce, dolloped with pine nuts and framed in a balsamic vinegar reduction. Shrimp scampi (appetizer $8.50) held a meager portion of shrimp (skimpy scampi, tee-hee), but the lovely sauce and accompanying lentil salad made it a value buy. All the sampled pastas and entrées were worthy, the best of the best being tortellini gorgonzola ($9.50), perfect little pasta purses in a glorious garlic-cream cheese sauce. Server Alfredo keeps what Chow, Baby thinks of as classy-Euro-waiter-distance: never hovering, but always close enough for a wave-over.
Beirut Rock Café (1201 S. Cooper St., Arlington) is the opposite of Al Covo in a couple of superficial ways. At this bunker-like building near UTA, the stained drop-panel ceiling and the view of an auto-supply store are among the more attractive features. And service is a lot more rushed. And it’s Lebanese rather than Italian. But it’s just as marvelous and pays the same attention to detail – lemon juice sparking the lentil soup, high-quality feta in the Greek salad. Chow, Baby was bowled over by the fresh, creamy baba ghannouj ($3.49): As reader Jerry said first, “eggplant never tasted so good.” Almost all of the items are college-budget priced, like the falafel sandwich ($2.99), in which the chick-pea patties are nicely spiced and perfectly cooked. If you have the bucks, get the sampler plate for two ($27.99), which includes soup (get the lentil) or salad (get the Lebanese, or the Greek, or any of them, really), plus near-full portions of three entrées. Here the best of the best is the chicken tawook (entrée $9.99), chunks of marinated breast meat charbroiled until seared outside, juicy inside. Housemade baklava ($2.49) makes a great ending.
That’s some great reader service – two wonderful finds in one week – and here’s Chow, Baby paying it forward: Try Al Covo and Beirut Rock Café. You heard it here second.
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