Poor Miss Moneypenny. While the still waters of M's secretary may have run deep, she could never make James Bond see her as anything more than a prim professional colleague. For all we know, 007 missed out on the love of his life — or at least a good romp — by failing to see Moneypenny in a different light. It can be hard to change perceptions of people — and restaurants, for that matter. But you'll be making a mistake of Bondian proportions if you don't look at the following eateries from a different angle. You may know ChaChah and Mambu as dinner restaurants and Dose as a coffeehouse, but look again — around lunchtime — when they let down their hair and show another side of their personalities.
When Arnold Myint cast open the glass patio doors on his second Belmont eatery last year, he made it an evening affair, launching a menu of highbrow cuisine and cocktails. Now Myint has added ChaChah to the lunchtime roster on the festive pedestrian corridor. But don't go looking for haute items such as bison marrow with cardamom-braised shank or sumac-roasted quail, the likes of which earned Myint a bid in an upcoming season of Top Chef on Bravo. Lunch at ChaChah is an easygoing episode of soups, sandwiches and salads smacking of Myint's elegant creativity while still ringing in around 10 bucks.
Prices top out at $11 for a baguette laden with thin rare steak, caramelized onions and a zesty paste of fresh minced herbs. Thick belts of Benton's bacon dominated a BLT with avocado aioli on rosemary bread. On our visit, the smoked turkey sandwich with tomato aioli was unavailable, for the encouraging reason that the kitchen was still smoking the meat. We opted instead for the wrap with chickpea fritters and hummus, which sounded like falafel but was more of a creamy hummus sandwich. As far as chickpeas go, we preferred the market veggie chopped salad, a fresh colorful medley of garbanzos, leafy greens, red, yellow and orange peppers, capers and diced carrots tossed with a sweet and tangy blend of sherry vinegar and honey.
If you're dining with a group, think strategically about side items. Sandwiches come with choice of fruit, house-made potato chips with aioli, Spanish pickled vegetables, potato salad and tabbouleh made with steel-cut oats. In our experience, the heaping servings were more than enough to pass around the table, so order a variety for sharing.
If you like what ChaChah does with cocktails (think Asian pear martinis, hibiscus cosmos, or clementine Bellinis), you'll love how Myint — who originally conceived of ChaChah as a teahouse — interprets iced tea (think cold, sweet chai and hibiscus-cranberry tea). And while you won't find the seductive teapot of molten chocolate on the lunch menu, you will find a nod to it in the Abuelita fudge brownie. While lunch at ChaChah doesn't live up to the culinary depth and whimsy of the dinner experience, it can at least tide you over until dinnertime.
ChaChah serves lunch Monday through Friday.
Dose Coffee & Tea
A lot has changed at the coffee shop near the intersection of West End Avenue and Murphy Road. Most notably, of course, is the name, which became Dose last fall after Heath Henley and Keith Steunebrink bought the establishment from their former employer, Portland Brew. The new proprietors have taken their time putting their mark on the place. Henley bakes all the muffins and cookies from scratch and serves granola from his grandmother's recipe, and the store recently began brewing beans from local Humphreys Street Coffee Co., which benefits Harvest Hands community development organization.
This spring, Dose introduced a sandwich roster, and the menu promises salads and soups in the near future. If the sandwich list is any indication of things to come, this house of caffeine could be the next sleeper on the lunch circuit. The five sandwiches — turkey and pesto, muffuletta, caprese, veggie and ham with sweet apple chutney — are made on bread from Bobby John Henry bakery on Music Row and range in price from $4 to $6.50. Bagel chips and hummus can be added for $1.50. Ham with sweet apple chutney arrived warm from the grill and overflowing with sweet sliced ham and a rustic reduction of apples with a peppery kick. The fresh bread was pressed thin on the grill, making the large sandwich easy to bite, and giving the crust a light crispness over a fluffy interior. At $5.75 without bagel chips, this simple sandwich at Dose is a powerful prescription for cheap eats.
Dose serves lunch Monday through Friday.
If Mambu has been out of your sight for a while, there's no reason the quirky eclectic eatery should be out of your mind. In fact, the reason you haven't seen Anita Hartel's cozy colorful house is just one more reason to visit for lunch: Over the years, the patio landscaping has matured into a luscious urban jungle, obscuring the view from the street and offering a cool, leafy retreat from the midday sun.
This spring, Hartel slimmed down the menu to make the lunchtime operations more efficient. A succinct roster of soups, sandwiches and salads includes burgers with jalapeno bacon, turkey smoked in house and a fried seafood po' boy.
Leisurely lunchers can still find a few Mambu signatures, such as shrimp-and-pork dumplings, but they might take a little longer than the express menu — in which case you may as well order a mojito made with fresh mint grown on the patio. If Mambu's lush garden of eatin' makes your green thumb itch, ask Hartel if she still has some tomato plants on hand. Again this year, she seeded some 40 varieties of heirlooms and is selling them from the porch of the restaurant for a dollar a piece.
Mambu serves lunch Monday through Friday.