Last night,I went to Bistro Campagne in Evanston for the first time with a couple of friends. Going in, I really wanted to like the place. I was a big fan of the very first iteration of Campagnola, and I was hoping the same simple, yet carefully crafted approach would be applied to French bistro fare.
Unfortunately, we were all pretty disappointed. We started with appetisers of mussels in ale and a chicken liver and truffle pate. The pate was very good, but not terribly exciting. It was served in the traditional style with pickles and onions and nicoise olives. The mussels were very fresh and sweet, with that wonderful soft texture that only very fresh mussels have. They were of the thin shelled variety, which makes me think they were from the Pacific Northwest, rather than PEI. The mussels were in a belgian beer broth that would have been fantastic, except for the fact that it was incredibly salty. In fact, over salting seemed to be the theme of the entire meal. All three of our main dishes, were very salty. My lamb (which had chewy bits of gristle), was accompanied by a falafel that must have had a whole teaspoon of salt in it. Again, it would have been delicious except for the excess of salt. One of my fellow diners had the wild salmon which seemed to be encrusted in salt. The fish itself was wonderfully fresh and flavorful. It was a shame that such fresh and fantastic ingredients, were ruined by sloppy prepararation. Considering the number of seniors dining there, I was surprised at the liberal use of sodium. As for deserts, we had almond cake with berries, creme brule and little puff pastries filled with ice cream and covered in chocolate sauce. The creme brule was passable, but the puff pasrties and the almond cake were horribly stale. The almond cake was dry and the puff pastry was chewy. All in all, a disappointing finish to a very mediocre meal. Oh well, at least the service was very good. Next time I want a nice dinner, I will travel a little bit farther north to Trio.