Geneva ChopHouse puts on a grand brunch

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By Joan Neeno, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

LAKE GENEVA—Geneva ChopHouse, the flagship restaurant of the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, has been on our list to review for quite a while.

Figuring the resort would be decked out for the holidays, we took a small group there for brunch one Sunday.

The ChopHouse is a top-tier steak house that has the prices to go with it. Its Sunday brunch, while expensive at $32.95 per adult, seemed like a good way to experience the restaurant without a triple-digit bill.

Grand Geneva's long driveway features dozens of light displays that no doubt look gorgeous at night. Although we weren't able to enjoy them, the Christmas tree in the lobby was impressive. Between polar bears and flocked trees, garland and holiday scents, the Grand Geneva is beautiful this time of year.

The ChopHouse was busy but not full when we arrived around 11 a.m. We sat in one of two main dining rooms. It was a bit disappointing they weren't decorated for the holidays, but given the spread of food, there really was no need for additional eye candy.

When we sat down, our server immediately offered us coffee and mimosas. Both are included in the price of brunch, and they weren't stingy about refilling glasses.

At the cold salad table were crab claws, shrimp and an assortment of smoked seafood, including the most delicious salmon I've ever put on a bagel. It was perfectly smoked, silky and mild. The table also held several salads.

The hot selections included pumpkin pancakes, waffles with warm maple syrup, cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, traditional and beef tenderloin Eggs Benedict, homemade soup and several lunch entrees, including short ribs and lamb. Nearby were a build-your-own omelette bar and a carving station for prime rib and ham.

Everyone should be able to find something to enjoy in that impressive spread.

The ChopHouse also had an exceptionally nice assortment of sweet treats. A chestnut praline tartlet was especially good, as was the chocolate pumpkin mousse.

Overall, the food quality was outstanding. Every dish could have stood on its own, which is impressive when you're serving about 20 entrees in a buffet line. The chafing dishes were filled quickly and often. Food was warm and very tasty. Buffet lines didn't back up despite the large number of diners.

Unfortunately, the service didn't live up to the quality coming out of the kitchen.

We arrived with an additional guest. Granted, that can throw a wrench in a seating plan. However, being “greeted” by the hostess with an exasperated roll of the eyes and then silently walked to our table was neither welcoming nor professional. I watched the hostess after we sat down; her chilly reception seemed to be the norm.

That lack of polish continued throughout the meal.

As lack of luck would have it, we were the table that experienced the brunt of a dropped tray of dirty dishes. One of the dishes struck our friend Jim on the shoulder and broken glass sprayed near his feet. Accidents happen, and the teenager who dropped the tray looked terrified. I felt awful for him.

The response by the manager that day, however, was thoroughly unimpressive. No one made an attempt to make things right while we were there. The manager seemed more concerned about filing an accident report, even interrupting our meal to do so.

The next day, the Grand Geneva's assistant manager called Jim to apologize, saying she was mortified at how the situation was handled, and sent him a generous gift certificate. She called it a learning opportunity for the staff.

I hope so because the food and the value of the ChopHouse's Sunday buffet were truly grand. The service, on the other hand, was typical of our experiences in Lake Geneva—young servers and inadequate training.

That said, if you are looking for a special place for Sunday brunch, I would recommend the ChopHouse without hesitation. How hard is it to serve brunch? We were just sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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