Shokolaat Lobster Salad Sandwich. Photo courtesy Kitchen Gadget Girl
The first thing you see when you walk into this self-described modern bistro are the sparkling cases stuffed with rich piles of handmade chocolates and pastries. That decadent display alone would be enough to draw one back to Shokolaat, but I was after quite another attraction: a meatloaf sandwich.
I've been to Shokolaat only for lunch (truth be told, I find their lunch menu far more interesting than their dinner offerings) and I have yet to be disappointed. Last spring, I had a mushroom soup drizzled with mint oil that was incredibly satisfying without being overly rich. That soup was good, very good, wonderfully good, but the salad I paired with it was great.
There's was nothing particularly interesting about the salad in question -- if I recall correctly, it was just greens and herbs -- but the greens were fresh and springy and the vinaigrette was neither too heavy nor too sweet. Fresh salad greens seem so simple, but I've met way too many salads that are ruined by limp lettuces and bad vinaigrette and, for me, there's nothing so disappointing as a bad salad. It's surprising how many restaurants can get it wrong.
But oy, that meatloaf sandwich! I'm a meatloaf lover. I love it hot and fresh with a steaming baked potato that has the perfect salt: butter: sour cream: minced scallion ratio. I love it cold the next morning, noon, or night. However, until Shokolaat showed me the way, I never loved it on a sandwich.
Served open-faced on two pieces of hearty bread coated with thin slices of oven-melted cheese, the spicy meat mixture has a tender, succulent crumb, full of flavor and comfort. Sigh. I get a big silly smile on my face just thinking about it.
Oh, and a word on that cheese addition, because of course I have decided cheese opinions. I don't add cheese to the meatloaf sandwiches I now make at home, but Shokolaat's sandwich has just the right amount to give flavor and texture but not so much that it puts this fairly elegant sandwich in grinder territory. I loathe it when cheese takes over any dish except fondue, but Shokolaat strikes the perfect balance.
Unfortunately, I found out that the meatloaf sandwich rotates out with other sandwiches they like to offer. "We have a really good hamburger right now!" the Shokolaat guy insisted when I called to ask about the meatloaf sandwich. Hey, I'll try it, but there are bunches of places in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to get good hamburgers. The same can hardly be said of an awesome meatloaf sandwich.
Shokolaat Pizzetta. Photo courtesy Kitchen Gadget Girl
Other highlights I discovered are two tasty pizzettas with pretty good crusts, macaroni and cheese topped with brioche crumbs and served in an impossibly adorable, personal-sized Le Creuset Dutch oven, and a lobster salad sandwich with avocado and Meyer lemon vinaigrette on a fresh, buttery croissant. The menu calls the lobster sandwich the "Neighborhood Favorite" and notes that they tried to take this particular item off but people, like, rioted or something, so they learned their lesson and there it stays.
Maybe I need to start a riot to bring the meatloaf sandwich back sooner...
516 University Ave (at Cowper)
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:00pm
Brunch: Saturday-Sunday 11:30am-2:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Saturday 5:30pm-9:00pm; Sunday 5:30pm-8:30pm