Restaurants: The Luxurious Liver, March 12, 2009 | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

Restaurants: The Luxurious Liver, March 12, 2009 

Eleven restaurants that serve foie gras

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The Luxurious Liver

Restaurant listings are culled from the Reader Restaurant Finder, an online database of more than 4,200 Chicago-area restaurants. Restaurants are reviewed by staff, contributors, and (where noted) individual Reader Restaurant Raters. Though reviewers try to reflect the Raters' input, reviews should be considered one person's opinion; the Raters' collective opinions are best expressed in the numbers. Complete searchable listings, Raters' comments, and information on how to become a Rater are at chicagoreader.com/restaurantfinder.

Bonsoiree Cafe & Delicacies2728 W. Armitage | 773-486-7511

F 8.9 | S 7.6 | A 6.8 | $$ (5 reports)American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: Tuesday-Friday | Closed Sunday, Monday | Open late: Friday till 11 | BYO

This smart BYOB started life as a casual deli and cafe, and still does double duty as a catering kitchen, but owners Shin Thompson and Kurt Chenier hit their stride when they spiffed the place up a bit and introduced multicourse prix fixe dinners, now available in 5, 7, and 13 courses. The eclectically influenced contemporary American menu showcases clean, streamlined, seasonal flavors; the spring menu is currently a work in progress, but the restaurant's offerings include Duck, Duck, Goose, a trio of duck breast, duck confit, and goose liver paté imported from France. On Saturdays the restaurant offers an $85 six-course "underground dinner" with a $5 corkage fee per bottle; to get an invite, sign up on the mailing list at bon-soiree.com. —Martha Bayne

Cafe Bernard2100 N. Halsted | 773-871-2100

$$$French | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11:30

I know I'll go to hell for it, but I can't pass up foie gras when I see it on a menu. The force-fed fatty duck liver at Cafe Bernard was a big, beautiful pan-grilled slab served with a syrupy port reduction—heaven on a plate, and a bargain at $15. A similarly bountiful apple and blue cheese salad provided a refreshing contrast. Our wine selection sent our server scouring the dusty catacombs. He emerged several minutes later with a similar bottle of an older vintage, offering it for the same reasonable price. In the spirit of gluttony we'd undertaken with the foie gras, both my companion and I chose rich entrees—hers the tender filet mignon in cognac-infused pepper sauce, mine the flavorful cassoulet Toulousain. For dessert we had a mousselike chocolate velvet cake and over-the-top-rich creme brulee. With the arrival of hair-curlingly strong espresso, I think the "tilt" signs finally appeared in my eyes. I shuffled home still humming the Piaf and Paris Combo that complement Cafe Bernard's old-school bistro vibe so well. —Kathie Bergquist

Cité505 N. Lake Shore Dr. | 312-644-4050

$$$$French | dinner: seven days

Cité is a restaurant that knows what it has going for it and makes the most of it; there isn't a table in the house that doesn't have a view from the 70th floor of Lake Point Tower. The contemporary French-influenced food plays second fiddle. I opted for the chef's five-course tasting menu, which changes every week, while my companion went a la carte. Bread (served with two seasoned butters—garlic herb and roasted red pepper) arrived at the same time as an amuse-bouche and our first course, making it hard to appreciate any of them on their own merits. The tasting menu started with lobster medallions served over shredded golden beets, which were a little pale and a little bland—I had a hard time identifying what they were. My friend got a duck breast and foie gras combo, which was as rich and succulent as you'd expect; the current preparation is an appetizer of seared foie gras with crispy brioche and a merlot reduction. For main courses we had a fish dish and scallop entree that were so unmemorable that the less said about them the better. Still, the glittering cityscape at dusk is incomparable. —Kathie Bergquist

Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar546 N. Wells | 312-467-0546

F 7.2 | S 7.6 | A 8.0 | $$$ (5 reports)French, Bar/Lounge | Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday

At this cheerful River North location, chef and co-owner Didier Durand (Le Perroquet, Le Francais, Gordon) brings his classic French cuisine down a notch—to more-casual dishes like duck a l'orange, steak au poivre, and coq au vin. There's a daily "market" preparation of foie gras, and Durand, just back from France, says he is planning on opening a small museum dedicated to the delicacy. The number of French-speaking patrons vouches for this bistro's authenticity and adds to the atmosphere. Framed mirrors and mounted press clippings decorate the warm mustard-yellow walls. Durand's wife, Jamie Pellar, runs the front of the house and advises on wine, and the francophone staff is courteous and attentive. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Eve840 N. Wabash | 312-266-3383

$$$American Contemporary/Regional | Lunch: Monday-saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

When it opened early last spring I thought of Tallulah—Troy Graves's comeback from Meritage—as a relative bright spot on Lincoln Square's increasingly mediocre restaurant row. Now with Eve it seems he's bringing the same relief to the Viagra Triangle. Touted as a more refined version of Tallulah, Eve is accordingly pricier and similarly congested—a condition slightly ameliorated by decorative smoke and mirrors, or rather sky blue paneling and mirrors. The food reflects the chef's predilections for serious meat (short ribs, suckling pig, foie gras) as well as his generosity in portioning. In some cases that's overgenerous, particularly in the appetizers and early courses such as a rich and heavy yet sweetly acidic roasted turnip puree that's more than enough by half. A grilled lobster sausage sprawls across the plate atop cold chanterelles and hot bacon dice, garnished with a large branch of thyme someone forgot to string with Christmas lights. For all Graves's intriguing combinations—mussels in ice wine, foie gras with grilled blood orange and snap pea salad, pomegranate-glazed prawns with toasted chestnut panna cotta—he has a tendency to sabotage himself: Some attractive-sounding sheep's milk ricotta dumplings turned out to be dense, dry concussion grenades mining an otherwise enjoyable lamb ragout with Swiss chard. Still, there's enough to like here to consider Eve a relatively progressive provocation to the neighborhood's Axis of Mediocrity. —Mike Sula

Hot Doug's3324 N. California | 773-279-9550

F 8.9 | S 8.2 | A 8.2 | $ (12 reports)American | Lunch: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Reservations not accepted | Cash only| BYO

rrr Most afternoons people line out the door of Doug Sohn's wildly successful emporium, willing to wait for the Crown Prince of Tube Steak's Polishes, brats, Thuringers, andouille, and Chicago-style dogs, dressed and cooked to customer preference—whether char-grilled, deep-fried, steamed, or fried then grilled. There are daily gourmet specials with silly names and a "game of the week" sausage—gator, boar, rattlesnake, rabbit, duck, kangaroo—or (now that it's legal again) the infamous foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle sauce moutarde, foie gras mousse, and sel gris. Fridays and Saturdays fresh-cut fries are cooked in duck fat, and the only request Sohn will refuse is to smother them in cheese sauce. Sohn has duplicated the goofy decor of his previous place, the victim of a fire; the newer spot is chockablock with Elvibilia and hot-dog-related kitsch, and there's outdoor seating and plenty of street parking. —Mike Sula

Naha500 N. Clark | 312-321-6242

F 8.9 | S 6.8 | A 7.7 | $$$$$ (12 reports)American Contemporary/Regional, Bar/Lounge| Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday

rrr Chef Carrie Nahabedian—winner of a James Beard award for best chef, Great Lakes—shows a fondness for sweet elements, as in an appetizer of scallops with citrus and vanilla bean, Hudson Valley foie gras with rhubarb and blueberry jam, and entrees like honey-glazed duck breast with huckleberries and quince or roasted squab with foie gras, dates, cherries, and fennel. But she marries savory flavors well, too: the wood-grilled Tallgrass New York strip or rib eye in an oxtail-red-wine sauce comes with a tarte tatin of red cipollini onions, goat cheese, and slab bacon and is dusted with Murray River apricot sea salt; roast quail is paired with Kurobuta pork belly, Rose Finn potatoes, Swiss chard, glazed onions, and tarragon. The emphasis of the seasonal menu is on locally sourced and sustainable foodstuffs. Decor is neutral: wood floors, taupe walls, a few natural-toned artworks, and a neat row of ornamental grasses serving as a room divider. There's a lounge menu served in the bar area. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Old Town Brasserie1209 N. Wells | 312-943-3000

F 8.1 | S 8 | A 7.2 | $$$ (5 reports)french | dinner: monday-saturday | closed sunday

Bob Djahanguiri, impresario behind celebrity-magnet boites of yore (Toulouse, Yvette), returns with Old Town Brasserie, a jazzy, boisterous nightspot specializing in classic French food with a few tweaks. Appropriately, the menu leads off with three styles of paté: country style, chicken liver mousse, and terrine-style cold foie gras; the duck liver is also available seared and served with quince confit, crispy sesame, and truffle ice cream. Entrees from new chef Andy Motto (Charlie Trotter's, Le Lan) include herb-roasted Amish chicken with garlic spinach and frites, sake-brined pork and crispy belly, and a decadent duo of Angus rib eye and rack of lamb. For dessert, Grand Marnier and chocolate soufflés are fluffy and light. Through April 15 a three-course prix fixe menu for $32 per person is available every night of the week except Friday, offering a choice of soup of the day or salad Lyonnaise; grilled salmon, the sake-brined pork, or herb-roasted chicken; and pistachio soufflé, peanut butter pavé, or Meyer lemon tart with milk chocolate cremeux, holy basil ice cream, and cassis coulis. —Mike Sula

Quince1625 Hinman, Evanston | 847-570-8400

$$$American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Monday

At Quince, in the old Trio space, chef Mark Hannon gives upscale American comfort food meticulous, even fussy treatment. Current highlights on the seasonal menu include sweetbreads with bacon and sauerkraut tortellini; a foie gras torchon with clementines, black pepper, and cranberry-orange sorbet; lamb spare ribs with celery root, a braised lamb shank casserole, and chocolate; paella with duck in addition to shrimp, scallops, fish, clams, and mussels; truffle gnocchi with Swiss chard; and a absolutely delicious cold appetizer you don't want to miss: shaved asparagus salad served simply in a big ol' bowl with a fragrant truffle vinaigrette. For dessert there are profiteroles, flourless chocolate cake with pistachio chai, carrot cake cheesecake, and house-made sorbet and ice cream. The room is woodsy and comfortable, with a fireplace that the weather unfortunately still makes welcome. A six-course tasting menu, available on request, is $80; a nine-course prix fixe $110. —Kate Schmidt

Sweets & Savories1534 W. Fullerton | 773-281-6778

F 8.7 | S 8.5 | A 7.8 | $$$ (11 reports)American, French | Dinner: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Tuesday

rrr David Richards doesn't stand on ceremony. No maitre d' or hostess greets you when you walk in the door of his cozy Fullerton Avenue storefront. Servers wear jeans and duck under the bar to rustle up drinks; bottles of wine are grabbed off a rack by the door. But the refined, French-inflected food has more than enough power to carry the show. The menu changes frequently, but the star of the a la carte section remains the famed foie gras burger, a fistful of Kobe beef topped with truffled mayonnaise, truffle oil, and a thick slab of paté. On my last visit the tasting menu started off with a refreshing tomato-saffron fondant evocative of a spoon-friendly Bloody Mary. Pan-roasted blue-nosed grouper over rosemary-potato hash was outstanding, as was the piping hot duo of juicy duck breast and complex rabbit sausage—served with a seductively smoky white bean cassoulet—that followed. "Sweets" included a deliciously stinky Camembert with a fig-and-almond cookie, a mango sorbet, and a one-two punch of chocolate ice cream and warm molten chocolate cake. The wine list offers a range of reasonably priced options, including a 2004 Avalon cabernet sauvignon that somehow manages to be both complicated and mellow. —Martha Bayne

Think2235 N. Western | 773-394-0537

F 8.8 | S 8.7 | A 8.2 | $$$$ (26 reports)American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11| BYO

rrr Raters remain high on Omar Rodriguez's Think Restaurant. The Italian-influenced contemporary American menu covers a lot of ground: a half-dozen appetizers, as many salads, and even more pasta and entree options. Raters single out the white asparagus salad with tomatoes and Maytag blue cheese, but my friend went for a plate of arugula, dried apples, and goat cheese in a mango vinaigrette, a nice, teasing balance of flavors. A venison special paired dark, sweet, slightly gamy meat with whipped sweet potatoes, dates, and dollops of foie gras—but its $35 price tag came as a bit of a shock. Another special of grilled bass with mango chutney, served over pearl couscous, was unfussy and satisfying. The multigenerational crowd is a testament to Think's appeal. —Martha Bayne

Please submit new listings or updates (include phone numbers) to restaurants@chicagoreader.com or Restaurant Listings, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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