Tuesday, March 5, 2013

House-made sodas and subpar poutine at Little Market Brasserie

Posted By on 03.05.13 at 03:31 PM

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I'm not sure where the recent obsession with giving restaurants diminutive-sounding names came from: the Little Goat isn't particularly small, nor is Little Market Brasserie's sister restaurant Tavernita (Barcito, the bar section of Tavernita, comes closest to fitting the bill). Maybe it's just the Mercadito restaurant group's branding decision. Little Market Brasserie is actually fairly large, and the menu, though not long, is equally sprawling, ranging from ceviche to pasta to wedge salad to poutine (more on that last one later).

Little sodas
Fully a third of that menu (which also doubles as your placemat, as a waiter will inform you if you attempt to push it away after ordering) is devoted to cocktails—including something called "charged cocktails." The restaurant makes its own sodas, in intriguing flavors like hibiscus-vanilla and cornflower-yuzu, and recommends alcohol pairings for each. When we dithered over the choices, our extremely helpful waitress offered to bring us samples of all five sodas. "Smoked and salted cream soda," extremely smoky and salty, was too intense on its own, but I wish I'd tried it with one of the suggested spirits (applejack or Irish whiskey). I went with the blood orange-cinnamon soda mixed with bourbon, which ended up being slightly too sweet and a little weak.

We got off to a good start with herbed, crispy pull-apart monkey bread and an excellent arugula salad with pear, crunchy slices of sunchoke, cheddar, and a sparingly applied red-wine vinaigrette. Things went downhill when the poutine arrived, though. I hadn't wanted to order it in the first place: I'd never had it before (I don't think the version with bamboo worms I tried a couple years ago really counts). And my coworker Mike Sula's well-documented disdain for the Canadian dish didn't make me eager to start. But the waitress told us that poutine was highlighted on the menu because it's their most popular dish, and my friend wanted it. She's generally a fan, and assured me that this was a particularly poor specimen, with not enough gravy or salt, and oddly lean-tasting short rib. The cheese curds were fried, which meant that they didn't meld with the fries—and the little gravy there was managed to make them soggy along with the fries.

Things just got more puzzling from there. Semolina gnocchi, served in little blocks that looked a lot like polenta, were accompanied by oddly acidic creamed spinach, a flavor that didn't play well with the funkiness of the mushrooms in the dish. Our side of brussels sprouts arrived after the other dishes, but it didn't much matter because we weren't very tempted to eat more than a couple: the sprouts had been halved and deep-fried, and the only discernible flavor was an unpleasant bitterness. "I've never seen brussels sprouts prepared this way," my friend said. "Now I know why."

Little Market Brasserie, 10 E. Delaware, 312-640-8141, littlemarketbrasserie.com

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