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  • Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Spicy beef egg rolls at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Improperly cleaned shrimp in a shrimp cocktail at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Black seasme-crusted walleye from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Crab and tomato bisque from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Bread pudding at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Chili from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Deep dish apple pie from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Prime rib sandwich at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Vegetarian wrap at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Black and bleu filet with blackened shrimp at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Chop salad from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Tempura Tuna from Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

  • Risotta with scallops at Chops in the Village at Time Corners.

Sunday, July 30, 2017 1:00 am

Southwest staple stays same amid changes

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Chop's

**1/2

Out of a possible five

$$$$

There were uneasy feelings among regulars when Chuck and Kara Pastor sold Chop's Steak & Seafood at the end of last year.

Who would be taking over? Would big changes lie ahead?

The new owners, Rob and Stacy Clevenger, who also own Trolley Steaks & Seafood, took over quietly, and so far nothing seems to have changed at the staple in the Village of Time Corners, including the menu. It has been pretty much the same for more than a decade.

The popular tomato and crab bisque has been there forever as has the tempura tuna. The spicy beef egg rolls are an appetizer favorite and the fennel tilapia is still there, too. I loved both back in 2006 when I first had them.

It was actually hard for me to find something new to try. These days with ever-changing, seasonal menus all the rage, a stale one like Chop's didn't excite me much.

The tempura tuna was still great. The still-rare tuna inside the thick, crispy, flavorful batter was fatty and moist, and the pickled cucumbers and onions with it were the perfect accent. It was like classic fish and chips met sushi and I loved it.

The egg rolls and soup failed to impress. The bisque had a strong processed tomato flavor that had me questioning if it was made in-house. The egg rolls were better but needed some editing.

The sliced rolls were buried under a nice fennel slaw with red, green and yellow peppers and were resting on two sauces, so they were hard to eat with your hands. The filling was fine and the sauces were tasty, but it was poorly plated.

The rest of my appetizers were enjoyable, but two of them were held back by what could only be blamed on lazy prep work.

The Chop Salad was without flaw. It had finely shredded greens so it resembled a slaw, was perfectly dressed so every morsel was touched and it was crowned with a crunchy, oozing, deep-fried chunk of goat cheese.

The chili was much better than the bisque and the mundane French onion. It was very dark and rich and had finely ground beef with not too many beans. I would have it again without question.

I might give the Caprese Salad another chance even though it had issues. The classic mix of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, which was really soft and creamy, was joined by a vibrant pesto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It all worked beautifully together, but I had to take time to remove the big, hard, white seed hearts from the tomatoes. That should have been done in the kitchen.

But that was not near as bad as the prep flaw in my shrimp cocktail, which came highly recommended by one of my servers. I received six big, plump, sweet chilled shrimp and loved the zesty horseradish-spiked sauce. But I couldn't eat half of those shrimp because they still had long, disgusting mud veins running through them.

The best entrée I had also came recommended by my server. The Black and Bleu Filet with Blackened Shrimp was a wonderful combination with a perfectly medium-rare steak topped with a just-as-perfect blue cheese compound butter flanked by six shrimp. The steak and shrimp were also lightly dusted with peppery spices and these shrimp were mud vein-free. With a side of cheddar-bacon mashed potatoes, I had nary an issue.

The prime rib sandwich at lunch also left me happy. There was a lot of thinly sliced beef in this big sandwich which also had nicely sautéed onions and provolone cheese. The onion straws on the side were a nice touch and really worked when thrown in the sandwich. The only thing I might have wanted was more cheese to match the copious amount of beef.

The best lunch item had no beef or any meat in it. The vegetarian wrap was not simply an encased salad. It had warm sautéed asparagus, red peppers, squash, mushrooms and onions that made it seem more hearty. Cold lettuce and tomatoes stood as a barrier between the warm veggies and the flour tortilla, which was smeared with a delicious dill cream cheese.

It was not only the best vegetarian wrap I have ever eaten, it is one of the best wraps I've had, period.

The black sesame and almond-crusted walleye was much better than the risotto of the day, but that wasn't saying much.

The crust on the walleye had zero flavor and was saved only by its tasty red pepper sauce and creamy remoulade. The risotto, which had poblano peppers and corn and which I paid extra to have topped with scallops, was not a risotto at all. It was sticky, overcooked rice that resembled that terrible broccoli casserole your aunt always brings to the family potluck even though nobody eats it. The scallops were pale without any sign of a sear so they lacked impact.

There were highs and lows with dessert. The high was the deep-dish apple pie, which had a crumbly crust and a gooey filling to make it kind of like a cobbler. There was just enough caramel and vanilla ice cream, too, but it was garnished with fresh strawberries, which had no business being there.

It was way better than the bread pudding. There was no indication on the menu that this bread pudding was not a traditional one. Chop's version features thin slices of pudding that I can only assume were baked hours ago and refrigerated to set up so it could be sliced. It was not served warm and was sort of like cold French toast. Calling it homemade bread pudding was simply wrong.

What was right about Chop's was the service and decor. There have been changes over the past decade when it comes to looks. Its black walls and brightly colored paintings give it a more modern atmosphere than it had not so long ago.

My servers were also very engaging and eager to make suggestions, even if some of them – like that dirty shrimp – didn't pan out.

Restaurant: Chop's Steaks & Seafood

Address: 6421 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Phone: 436-9115

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Tempura tuna ($14), egg rolls ($8), shrimp cocktail ($14), soup ($3), bisque ($4), Caprese Salad ($8), Chop Salad ($5), filet and shrimp ($40), walleye ($21), risotto ($16), prime rib sandwich ($10), vegetarian wrap ($8), apple pie ($6), bread pudding ($5)

Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.