Last night I took my sweetie to an event in which she had minimal interest, so she got to choose the eats. She had a hankerin' for seafood, and picked Chinn's 34th Street Fishery in Lisle. It's a pretty reliable place in my experience, not as good as 120 Ocean in Wheaton, though the prices are pretty close to the same. But they go for the noisy, paper tablecloth, type of thing.
Inspired by the recent thread on soft shell crabs, I knew what I was going to have, but then my sweetie ordered salad and soup to start, so I eyed the oyster selection (boldly ignoring the old chestnut about months with "r" for we live in an enlightened and liberated time), and chose 1/2 dozen Malpecques, with the sauteed soft shells. She had salad, the lobster bisque, and the Copper River salmon, chargrilled.
Two items were excellent. I grew up eating oysters heavily seasoned - lemon juice, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and tabasco. But, when I eat them (which is not so frequent, I think the last time was maybe a couple of years ago when I had some unpleasant oysters at Pappadeaux) these days, I have moved towards the lightly vinegared, French preparation. For whatever reason, last night I tried the first one plain. Wow. Salty, sweet, slightly chewy, just an excellent medley of flavors and texture - let them stay in the mouth to enjoy. If you like oysters, go now, Chinn's has some great ones. These were not big, and plump, so they gave me seven.
And the Copper Canyon salmon was also excellent. Lightly charred, an excellent combination of the salmon and charcoal flavors - a thin filet with a slightly chewy texture. Very, very nice. Simple preparations, excellent ingredients, certainly among the best oysters and salmon I have ever had.
The lobster bisque was thick, creamy, with fairly tasteless chunks of lobster, and the Bookbinders sherry touch. Too busy, in comparison, and I really do not like the sweetness of the sherry. Maybe as an almost subliminal touch, but it so easily overpowers the other flavors. The soft shells came as an order of 4 mid-sized, lightly breaded and sauteed. The first seemed mushy and tasteless. Not off, or old, just slightly overcooked and without much flavor. Not sure if I was going through some sort of sensory rebound from the oysters, but the other three had more texture, and flavor. I finished pretty happy.
Meanwhile, the show was good as well. We were seated in the back room, and they tried to put me facing the wall. Having none of that, I faced out, which put me looking directly through a wait/bus station into another room, and a couple that did not seem to be talking. At the station, there was a kung fu busboy, who was doing martial arts while, before and after hauling dirty dishes (quite entertaining) and the two waiters who were working our room. They seemed to adopt the couple, and by the end of the evening were feeding them extravagant deserts, and swapping racing tips, as it turned out the couple were here to see some drag racing event (how did I ever miss that?).
An expensive, old school seafood dinner, with excellent ingredients, and very pleasant and professional service - besides the oysters of bliss, it really made me happy to see that couple loosen up and be happy. There are times when I ask myself why this place is so successful, but last night they delivered. Nice call by my honey!
Chinn's 34th Street Fishery
3011 W. Ogden Ave., Lisle