Imagine my surprise. Having planned for a Mon Ami Gabi dining experience, and wine discussion undoubtedly, with VI and the Condiment Queen, and been stiffed at the last moment with some tale of babysitter woe, the bride and I found ourselves at loose ends this eve. Uncharacteristically, we began sifting through a pile of coupons and gift certificates considering the options (and there was, to my surprise, a $25 LEY that is good at Mon Ami on Fridays, but the reservation had been canceled).
We found one mass-mailed to us, for $10 at the new Signature Room, off route 53 in Woodridge. I called, they could take us, we are off.
Yes, this is the first of a planned chain of places to be based on that paragon of fine dining on the 95th floor of the John H. Not promising, but for some reason I wanted to go.
There were many things to like about the place, somewhat to my surprise. The room is nice, warm (with a fireplace, lovely bar, live jazz) with pleasant art on the walls, dark wood trim, white tablecloths. The wine list and policies are exemplary. I cannot say enough about them. $5 (!!!) corkage fee, which was waived because we also bought glasses of wine (they almost apologetically explained this policy and that they would not allow you to bring any bottle on their wine list as if they were not being supremely reasonable and gracious). Extensive and reasonably priced wine list, most strong in mass American bottlings admittedly, but well chosen and priced, IMO, most bottles priced between $20 and $40. Really wonderful. I could go on and on. On the other hand, they seem to have no clue, more below.
The menu harkens back to traditional continental cuisine, lots of steaks, lamb, salmon, pork medallions, lobster, and some newer offerings such as vegetarian pasta and pepper crusted tuna. A mix of interesting and traditional appetizers and soups (think lobster bisque and roast duck spring rolls to get this yin and yang).
But enough of the intro. The meal started with an amuse of slightly dried or roasted tomato slices with a dab of cheese, seemed like Boursin to me. Pleasant enough. Bread was also good, some cheese lavosh, a country white, and an herb bread. Crispy crust, decent flavor, generally okay. The bride started with the lobster bisque, and declared it good, but not very lobstery.
We then moved on to the salad cart. You get to build your own salad (do they do this on the 95th?), starting with shredded, mixed lettuces and then adding any of a choice of other things. The draw here is interesting dressings - in addition to vinaigrette and ranch, they had a light lemon, and a honey walnut. Quite pleasant, all made in house. The shredded lettuce is a definite negative as you lose most texture and crispiness.
For the main course, we both had steaks, surprisingly (or not, still missing Mon Ami Gabi, I guess), I a 12 ounce strip which our server recommended, and my lovely bride a petite filet. Both were served in a bath of the same sauce, which tasted to be something of a wine reduction. Mine had nice, sweet roasted cherry tomatos and hers a very tasty braised fennel. Excellent meat, cooked perfectly as requested. Quite decent sauce. The only quibble here is that mine was topped with blue cheese which overwhelmed everything else. My bad, it was as advertised and I should not have ordered it.
Sides were a large baked potato with all the fixings and some herbed mashed potatos of questionable pedigree that did not do anything even for my normally potato crazy sweetie. Soldiering on, we finished by sharing a blueberry cobbler. This was basically a nicely done blueberry filled individual streusel coffee cake with creme anglaise. Interesting, sweet and edible, but neither cobbler, nor great.
The place opened a month ago, and the whole operation reminded me at times of a high school theater group performing "Restaurant!" Eager, ingratiating, clueless, sweet, and deferential. Not unpleasant if you took them in hand, but some of the lapses might annoy those who want a more professional performance. I liked them just fine.
Link to the home page is below. The meal with the steaks was not cheap ($90 for 2 including two expensive but massive glasses of wine - really a double pour in a cruet, plus tip), but I will go back for the roast chicken and it will be much less. I really liked it, and hope they do well, if only to see the next play they perform as sophomores, and to drink that wine. Mostly good food, nice atmosphere, no pretensions, nice staff trying hard. Not a bad value, and much better choice for steak than any of the steakhouses around here.
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