After an exhausting day of shopping (heads up fellas, selected men's suits are 50% at Nordstrom) the Dessert Diva and I needed fuel, having only eaten tomato bread slices at D'Amato's 1# and splitting a newly resurrected "Hermit" cookie at Fields on State.
Selecting a restaurant, in and of itself, is a monumental task. Why? Save for steaming bowls of offal....WE LIKE EVERYTHING! Options: Fried Chicken at Edna's? Cajun Rib eye at S&W, Issan at Siam Noodle and Rice? Well after much hunger inducing debate we selected "Steak Frites" - first thought....La Sardine.
Finding La Sardine closed we headed down the "Giardinara" canyon to Chez Joel.
Nice room, not unlike many Paris bistros, except with cleaner restrooms and no cloud of "Gauloises" smoke.
Bread was delivered, some slices of baguette and a whole wheat boule with some tapenade made from buttery Moroccan olives. The bread was not as good as La Sardine but the tapenade rocked.
We selected a modest Cote du Rhone ($32) and ordered our meals - French onion soup ($5) and Steak Frites Au Poivre for the Diva and Salade Maison ($6.95) and Coq au Vin for myself.
The soup was all it should have been, rich broth chock full of sweet onion and a perfectly gratineed, thin layer of gruyere atop a baguette crouton, not the heavy handed glop one usually gets, tres bien!
The salade maison was bibb lettuce, Belgian endive, a concasse of grape tomatoes and a very good mustard & shallot vinaigrette. Quite nice but a bit steep at seven bucks.
Coq au Vin was not quite Coq au Vin ($14.95), but more poulet roti. Nicely crisped, roast chicken in a stoneware crock with a rich chicken jus enhanced by sautéed pearl onions, mushrooms and lardons. Not quite the famous long braised rooster and Gevrey Chambertin stew, but mighty delicious none the less....in fact the Diva declared "It's so chickeny, this how chicken should taste!" a great compliment as the Diva knows her yard bird.
Steak Frites au Poivre ($19.95) was 1O ounce strip sirloin that had been pressed into crushed peppercorns and perfectly grilled to medium rare. The meat was juicy and had a great "meaty" tang. Both entrees came with a "super-sized" haystack of pommes frites. Shoestring thin, twice fried and liberally salted....definitely frites to be reckoned with.
Well, when the Diva's on the town, not having dessert is not an option. Good thing too, because without her around I would neglect to get my weekly FDA required servings of chocolate ;).
We ordered "Night & Day" cake ($7), Blueberry Clafoutis tarte ($7) and two glasses of P. Jaboulet Muscat Beaumes de Venise ($7 each). The cake was chocolate genoise with alternating layers of chocolate and creme fraiche buttercream frosting, plated atop an elegant swirl of raspberry coulis, creme anglaise and an "almost dangerous" tumbleweed of spun sugar. The cake was very good, but no revelation. This blueberry tarte was indeed and epiphany. A pate brisee and almond tarte shell filled with eggy, blueberry laden claufoutis batter served warm and garnished with the same raspberry coulis, creme fraiche, spun sugar affair. A nice addition to each was a "tuile" cup filled with "fruits macedoine" (fresh fruit cocktail).
The service was extremely professional with neither of us noticing when wine glasses were refilled or water replenished.
The total: $118 and a $23 tip. This was a bit pricey for the neighborhood. One would certainly spend a bit less at La Sardine, the same amount at Bistro Campagne (which I really like) or Tournesol (which I don't like) given the number of courses and probably a bit more a Cafe Matou or Marche.
Given the quality of food and service we'll be back.
The only downside of the evening....Mario's Italian Lemonade stand is of course closed for the Winter, otherwise I would have taken a quart to go.
1119 W. Taylor St.