In spring 2012 Stephan and Nicole Outrequin Quaisser, owners of the Lincoln Square French restaurant LM, lured their erstwhile chef, Bradford Phillips, back to helm not just the mother ship but their "neighborhood French bar," Troquet, and this offshoot in the Essex Hotel. Brasserie by LM takes the place of the ill-starred, short-lived Tribute, and a cursory renovation can't dispel the depressing sense of hotel captivity that's lingered on since its demise. Weary travelers hunch over (mostly domestic) beers, or something from the 18-bottle wine list, unable to face the prospect wandering out onto Michigan Avenue or up to the TV-lit despair of their own empty quarters. A large menu's there to ease this (possibly wholly imagined) ennui, with a burger, bow-tie pasta, and brick chicken along with croques, frites, mussels, pork belly, and duck confit, plus nonthreatening chestnuts like steak frites, salmon and lentils, a Lyonnaise salad, onion soup, and a sausage du jour. A workmanlike beef bourguignon or a grilled currywurst on potato puree has the potential to cheer this thin crowd up, but somehow it seems perfunctory, phoned in, perhaps a liability of the broader demands of a kitchen that needs to provide daylight-appropriate items like breakfast pastries, eggs, crepes, and muffins.
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