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Chicago Area

Has Chez Joel gone downhill?


Restaurants & Bars

Has Chez Joel gone downhill?

Steve Sanders | Jun 20, 2007 09:08 PM

I just got back from a very disappointing meal at Chez Joel on Taylor St. I wondered if anyone else has had any recent bad experiences there?

I ate outside on the patio, where less attention seems to be paid than in the dining room to the tabletops and overall ambience. Rather than put down new butcher paper, the waiter appeared to simply brush away some crumbs. My candle was never lighted. Service was moderately attentive, though I had to ask for utensils and a napkin when my salad arrived.

The salad -- mesclun with goat cheese -- was underdressed (better than overdressed, I admit, but still lacking in flavor). The house vinaigrette seemed very nice, but it needed a little more presence.

The steak frites was the big disappointment. I had it at Chez Joel for the first time last fall and remember thinking the sirloin was one of the best I've had. The next time I had it, the flavor wasn't quite as good. This time it was gray (my request for *charred* medium wasn't honored) and almost tasteless, lacking in flavorful fat, a bit too perfectly portion-cut in a way you'd expect to see in a chain restaurant. The haystack fries were greasy.

The glass of cotes du Rhone was served too warm -- obviously kept in a too near the kitchen, rather than at the coolish cellar temperature at which a red wine ought to be served.

Finally, the sort of chocolate-mousse cake I ordered for dessert was attractively presented, but seriously lacking in the sort of intense, pure chocolate flavor I'd expect from something like this in an authentic bistro. It looked and tasted like something brought in from a large producer.

I thought Chez Joel was quite a find when I first went there last fall. And it's gotten good reviews from Zagat and the local foodie boards. Was this just a very bad night, or has the place seriously slipped in recent months?

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