(note - I also posted a variation of this to the Chicago Reader Restaurant Rater's comments)
We went on New Year's eve and our table was ready when we got there a few minutes late for our 8 pm reservation. They must have improved their timing, because normally you have to wait and there weren't any people waiting. (we had gotten a call to confirm the day before - maybe that has eliminated any over/underbooking? or on New Year's they book less?). There is a small bar so you can get something to drink if you do have to wait.
They added a festive touch for the evening, covering the ceiling in red and white helium balloons. The light in the room would dim as the balloons floated in front of the bulbs, and one of the managers would move the balloons away from the lights as he passed by. Then they would drift over the bulbs again. The decor is fairly sparse, but not spartan. The front is a solid wall of windows, there are red banquettes and wooden chairs with red cushions, and some art on the walls. The front part of the dining area is separated from the back by a 1/2 wall with a glass top. There is a room that seats 4 inside the wine closet you can reserve for special occasions (but don't try to reserve it for 2 people on a Saturday night! They want 4 in there.)
It was crowded, but not so noisy that we couldn't converse - despite some larger groups at tables for 6. I did feel kind of boxed in whenever the table next to ours was getting food, but I'm not sure anything could have been done about that. We ordered a glass of the house champagne and read the menus. We also munched on the excellent roasted garlic and bread they put on the tables. It's *so* tasty and something I always look forward to. They will bring more, too, so it's easy to fill up. Make sure to leave room for the real food, portions are not skimpy here!
Since the last time we have been here they changed the menu. They've gotten rid of the "Jacky's childhood favorites" categories, and now it just has appetizers/soups/salads and main dishes, with extra side dishes (green beans, fries, etc) listed in a box on the edge of the menu. They were doing the normal menu and did not offer a tasting menu. There were a few specials, and I really appreciated that our server told us the price along with the description.
I ordered one appetizer, my husband ordered soup and salad - and they delivered both his soup and salad at the same time, which was kind of awkward, since the salad was on a very big plate. Had he realized he would have asked for one at a time - or maybe they should have asked which he wanted first?
My appetizer was "Crispy Crab Cake" and boy was it crispy! They had wrapped it in a pastry leaf and deep fried it. I think it was the stuff the French call Brik - thicker than filo but not as thick as puff pastry. So there was a pan-sauteed crab cake inside a ton of fried dough. It was really too much. I think the cake itself, without the wrapping, would have been quite nice. It was on a bed of unremarkable ratatouille.
Service is a team operation - the server came back often to pour our wine and make sure we didn't need anything else, but someone else brought our appetizers. We mostly had the same man filling our water glasses. I like water without ice and
he remembered each time. That was quite thoughtful.
We had a bottle of wine with our entrees (I didn't read the wine list, but I recall my husband mentioning on other occasions that it was a nice list, and not unreasonably priced - not a huge bargain though), and while I like that our server kept our glasses filled, I would have preferred to have been asked - I like to finish a glass so I know how much I am drinking. When it just gets topped off it becomes easy to over imbibe.
My braised short ribs were very good. They came on a bed of garlicky mashed potatoes that had an excellent texture and with cooked carrot sticks. My husband had an unremarkable but just fine snapper dish. I could barely eat half of what I got, and they wrapped the rest up for me to take home.
We had coffee after dinner, and my husband had planned to order a glass of after dinner wine, but they brought the check once we had gotten our coffee. It wasn't a case of them rushing us, I don't think they needed the table, but I guess they didn't think we were going to order anything else. Maybe most people order the wine or brandy then have coffee after that, but they could have asked. We didn't order dessert.
When we left we stopped by the bar to ask about the name of the house champagne and the bartender and another woman who might be some sort of manager were quite nice - they wrote the name down for us, and the bartender even looked in the trash to pull out one of the metal caps that cover the cork that has the name on it (luckily he didn't find one ;)
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