First impression: With Lauderdale-by-the-Sea going through a transformation, the huge parking lot in front of Chatham House is a rare commodity. Last time I was in this spot, it was an Italian restaurant called Pa DeGennaro's. In June, the owners turned it into an old-fashioned seafood and steakhouse that delivers solid renditions of classic restaurant fare. I only wish the menu were a little more innovative.
Ambience: There's so much wood in this place that you can easily get the feeling that you're eating inside an oak casket. Booths are comfortably oversized. There's a bar at one side of the restaurant.
Starters: Spinach and artichoke dip ($12) doesn't get much better than this. Served warm, the vegetables actually give the dish some texture instead of being ground into the creaminess. New England clam chowder ($6) is also very good, with good pieces of clam throughout. The soup itself isn't overly thickened with corn starch or flour. Braised red and golden beet salad ($12) is a generous serving that includes toasted pistachios, mixed greens, mandarin orange segments, Gorgonzola cheese and just a little too much raspberry vinaigrette. Caesar salad ($8) is much more restrained, with a nice, garlicky dressing, croutons and shaved Parmesan.
Entree excellence: An 8-ounce filet mignon ($32) was cooked perfectly to order. Tender and served with mashed potatoes and onion strings, vegetables were gladly exchanged for the potatoes. Cedar-plank-baked salmon ($24) arrives on a piece of cedar along with jasmine rice pilaf, asparagus, sun-dried tomato-lemon sauce and leeks. The salmon has a subtle mustard and citrus glaze. The kitchen respects that salmon is best when served on the rare side. Seafood pasta ($24) is a big bowl of linguine and grilled ciabatta topped with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari in a tomato-saffron broth. The menu says there's also fish in the dish, but it was nowhere to be found. It's still a pleasant, filling way to enjoy shellfish.
Sweet! A slice of moist pistachio pound cake ($8) is served with vanilla ice cream, sauce Anglaise and fresh berries. White-chocolate-golden-raisin-bread pudding with toasted almonds ($7) is even richer, with toffee-rum butter sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Service: OK. Servers aren't afraid to make personal recommendations. But a lesson in wine service wouldn't be a bad thing. Corks aren't supposed to be put back in the bottle after opening.
Insider tip: There's live music and dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Dining deal: A $19.95 three-course Sunset Dinner Menu is served from 4:30 to 6 p.m. daily.
Chatham House Restaurant
4331 N. Ocean Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Cuisine: Seafood and steak
Hours: Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot