Pardon Their French

Posted March 27, 2008 in Eats

What you see is what you get at CP’s Place in Riverside. Unlike several other French restaurants in the Inland Empire—such as Gerard’s in Riverside and Jean’s in Colton—the emphasis here is on the American side of the equation, rather than the French. CP’s—which stands for Carl’s Place, after owner Carl Solomko—also lacks the intimate dining of the aforementioned establishments, settling instead for a wide dining area surrounded by cozy booths, with a rather neat glass enclosure where you can watch the chef (Solomko) prepare your meal. CP’s offers a classy, Americanized take on continental dishes, served up in a pleasant atmosphere with a cheerful and helpful staff.

These are good things.

On the Tuesday night we went, CP’s was fairly empty with a few families scattered around the room, along with what appeared to be an ensemble cast of the traveling production of Golden Girls: The Musical. It would be easy to say our amazing service was due to the fact that it wasn’t busy, but it’s hard to imagine the waitress we had not being as attentive and bubbly (to the nearing point of being annoying) when the place is jumping. Another refreshing change about CP’s is that you’re actually allowed to have a meal—a long one—without the pressure of turning tables over. This plays—admirably—more to the French side of things.

And the food at CP’s is definitely worth sticking around for. If you’re looking for exotic, you’ll be disappointed. This isn’t the joint to get your first taste of frog legs, snails, or even a French onion soup for that matter, since CP’s doesn’t really jibe with the overall fusion goal of the menu here. No, what they offer is less flashy in name and less foreign in comestibility, but no less delicious.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire meal was a bowl of black mussel soup we started off the meal with. The mussels sit in a subtle creamy white sauce and are surrounded by petite teardrop tomatoes, which blend well with the sauce and the Parmesan encrusted mini-baguettes which ring the bowl. The mussels themselves are top-notch, sweet and tender and almost tofu-like in their spongy ability to take on the flavor of the sauce.

Slightly less amazing (but still tasty) is the roasted bell pepper salad; feta cheese, walnuts and miniature slices of honey-colored bell peppers that almost resemble mango slices but with cactus-like consistency to the taste. The best part of the salad has to be the flavorsome walnuts, with crystallized sugar slivers coating them . . . it’s a small touch, but one that takes the salad from the mediocre to special.

Another nice touch at CP’s is the excellent wine list, which features ample choices at reasonable prices. We settled on a nice Napa red from the Avalon winery, a selection that didn’t mesh too well with my salmon but was delicious in its own right, sweet with a hint of vanilla. The Salmon Napoleon was something of a qualified success, with the upper portion of flaky, almost sweet salmon, fitting in well with the reduced tomato sauce and the chunky leaves of basil which were strewn artfully across the plate. One slight disappointment was the polenta the salmon rested on, which was somewhat bland, but not enough to diminish the wholesome goodness of the dish.

The best part of CP’s is the price. We had two glasses of wine each, and a nice meal at around $65, which makes CP’s not only an affordable elegant dinner, but a deliciously bona-fide steal.

CP’s Place, 1355 E. Alessandro Blvd., Riverside, (951) 653-4142. Open Tues.– Sat. for dinner, 5PM–9PM. Banquets available for lunch. AE, D, MC, V 


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