Earlier this month we discovered a kitchen at the end of the Chesapeake Expressway that dishes out some of the most beautifully plated and well-crafted eats in all of 757.
Straddling the Great Bridge and Hickory divide is KAPERS Eatery. The humble bistro anchors an unassuming strip mall on South Battlefield Boulevard that houses your run-of-the-mill stops for coffee, nail services and take-out pizza. What Kapers lacks in dining space, it makes up for in big flavor and big personality from owners Kimberlee and Todd Prosser.
The Prossers first arrived to Coastal Virginia in 1997 by means of the United States Navy. For years the active duty couple juggled deployments, children and international tours, but Kim’s retirement prompted a new family project in 2018. That spring, the Prossers began hunting for a catering kitchen for Kim. The vacant space on South Battlefield seemed perfect, but their son and professionally trained chef, Kevin, had other plans. After a few family meetings, the catering concept transformed into a full-blown restaurant outfitted with a handcrafted bar, galley kitchen and formal dining space. The Kapers team moved in that May and opened for business just three months later on Aug. 18, 2018.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, it’s not uncommon for the scratch kitchen to be running a waitlist. Intimate tables and the hulking 10-person high-top, nicknamed the Godfather, shuffle through reservations and walk-ins until the restaurant’s close at 10 p.m. Eager to sample the highly exalted eats crafted by Executive Chef Kevin Prosser and Sous Chef Moon, I ventured to Chesapeake for dinner.
Kim emerged from the kitchen as Todd greeted us with a cheery hello. The couple led us to a window side table and placed down two Kapers-green menus. Contrary to other dinner joints in the area, Kapers’ menu is comprised entirely of tapas-style eats. You can choose from well over a dozen hot plates influenced by international flavors like spring rolls with sweet Thai chili sauce, a Cioppino seafood stew, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and parmesan truffle fries. Also offered is an assortment of salads and cold plates like a creamy spinach and artichoke dip and a mixed charcuterie board.
We munched on a half loaf of the house bread as we perused both the paper and chalkboard specials menu. The rosemary bread is baked fresh daily and is served with a ramekin of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of Italian herbs. We were careful not to fill up though because we had quite the smorgasbord of plates on the way.
Arriving first were fried artichokes. This dish alone is worth my 30-minute commute from Virginia Beach. The bite-size hearts are hand-coated in a crisp, flaky exterior bursting with flavor. A hearty dunk into the house-made lemon aioli brings the dish’s citrus profile to light and helps to create a shareable plate that is both flavorful and refreshing.
When Chef Moon arrived with the second platter, he told us to eat with our eyes first, and that’s exactly what we did. A foursome of golden shrimp tempura appeared doused in a colorful Thai chili glaze. In the center of the plate stood a bright green serving of wakame with a yellow flower crown. After my first forkful of the beautiful dish, I realized it tasted just as good as it looked. The shrimp’s fried exterior is both light and buttery with the slightest bite from the Thai glaze. A bed of slaw cuts the heat with a fresh citrus slant.
Out-plating the tempura was the lamb chop special. They were beautifully charred bites of tender meat rested on top of a bed of roasted mushrooms and grilled green beans. Tricolored flowers and a dollop of homemade tzatziki sauce added a pop of color to the plate as well. Slightly pink, the juicy lamb added well-balanced flavor to the umami profile of its vegetable counterparts.
Our last and final dish on the savory side manifested in the form of the 6-ounce BB King. The palm-sized tenderloin arrived riddled with grill marks and wrapped in a strip of thick, juicy bacon. Sprinkled with scallions and crunchy water chestnuts, the certified Hereford tenderloin was crowned with a handful of grilled asparagus. Adding a pop of sweetness to the robust plate was an artful drizzle of chef’s brown sugar bourbon glaze.
Despite our satiated state, Todd asked us those magic words—“Now how about dessert?”—and we were sold. A chocolate mousse that had been prepared just three hours earlier stood in the center of our table as a beacon for all things decadent. The glass flute was filled to the brim with saccharine layers of fluffy mousse, whipped cream, fresh berries, slivered almonds, chocolate shavings and my personal favorite, two hazelnut-filled pirouettes. We licked our spoons clean and packed up the remnants of our plates in to-go boxes.
As if we could stomach the thought of more food, Todd reminded us to come back for Sunday brunch. The Breakfast Shot, he says, is a real crowd-pleaser and is even served with an orange juice chaser. Upon leaving, I prepared myself for the boozy mixture of Jameson, butter schnapps, brandy and bacon I’d consume during my next visit to Kapers Chesapeake.
KAPERS Eatery is located at 1296 S. Battlefield Blvd., Chesapeake and is open Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.