DINING: First Bites – Chive on Royal Palm Pointe

Two years ago, when I was one of the judges for Vero’s Top Chef Challenge, the winner was Lou Kolbauer, then executive chef of Wild Thyme Catering. His dish of poached lobster, grilled pork tenderloin medallions, grilled pear and pan seared Roman gnocchi triumphed over the stylings of chefs from such highly regarded local restaurants as Osceola Bistro and the Tides.

About eight months later, Kolbauer and partner Travis Beckett opened a new lunch spot, Chive, on Old Dixie Highway. Chive pioneered a fast-paced approach that let customers get in the door, participate in creating their own dishes at the counter, pay, carry their food to a table, eat and get back to their jobs in under an hour. Judging by the lunchtime crowds, that formula has been a big midday success.

Now, Kolbauer is trying for a third win at dinner time at the partnership’s newest restaurant, Chive on Royal Palm Pointe.

Headline news: The big question, in our view, is how many will find the frenetic pace of Chive’s approach to lunch-hour dining equally appealing at the dinner-hour – a time when people are more likely to want to relax and unwind, and enjoy their dishes with a couple of beers or a bottle of wine.

Look & Feel: Chive on Royal Palme Pointe is located in the part of the Calvetti and Co. building that formerly housed the Amalfi Grille. The restaurant has been very tastefully remodeled. On the wall are a number of attractive paintings brought back to Vero by Haiti Partners physicians.

Food: Here’s how it works. When you enter Chive, instead of being seated at a table, you are shown straight to the first position at the counter. There, you choose what you want (ie, seared ahi tuna, flank steak, grilled mahi-mahi) and what you want it on (tacos, burrito, beans and rice bowl, butter lettuce salad, or po boy).

Then, you move onto the next counter position, and “personalize” your dish by choosing from 20 signature toppings (ie, salsa fresca, jalapenos, blue cheese crumbles) and or 16 specialty sauces and dressings (ie, wasabi mayo, avocado walnut vinaigrette, roasted red pepper sour cream).

On several visits, we have stuck mainly to tacos, enjoying the seared ahi tuna tacos ($12.75) – nice slices of rare tuna – and the wild caught grilled shrimp ($10.75). On our most recent visit last Friday, they were also offering four tapas plates at $8 each. We tried three of these: the ahi tuna; the broiled shrimp and mahi cakes; and a crunchy almond-coated shrimp. All were very tasty. And while the Maine lobster roll ($15.75) is the most expensive dish on the menu, it contained large chunks of lobster claw meat.

Drink: Chive has an adequate selection of cold beers and wines available at a reasonable price.

Service: You are your own wait staff. While the salad dishes are handed to you on regular plates, the burrito and tacos are wrapped in aluminum foil and given to you in a plastic basket. This is designed to keep warm food warm, because by the time you move to the final station at the counter, select your beer or wine, pay, round up plastic utensils and paper napkins, and carry your food to the table, hot dishes on plates would be starting to cool.

The other service hiccup that bothered us was if midway through the meal a member of your party wants another beer or glass of wine, there’s no table service; someone has to get up and return to the counter, get it, and pay for it.

Prices: Prices ranged from $7.25 to $15.75. Dinner for two with a glass or two of beer or wine seems likely to run around $50.

Initial impressions: The food is definitely good. But while things appear to have smoothed out a bit since opening week, first-time evening visitors seem a bit bewildered by the process, and taken aback by the pace. Young people appear to like it (and there were quite a few kids present on our most recent visit). But we overheard one woman comment: “My mother-in-law would go into cardiac arrest if I brought her here.”

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

Leave a Comment