We went to Deleece for New Year's Eve (NYE). I had eaten there earlier this year before a Cubs night game, and enjoyed it a lot, as I reported at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3735... . Their NYE menu, posted on their website, was enticing and (like their regular menu) not terribly expensive, so we booked dinner there.
I really loved both dinners. There is something very appealing about Deleece, and it's not only the delicious food. It is very much a neighborhood restaurant; the tag line on their website is "An affordable, eclectic, neighborhood haunt", and that's a good description. It doesn't get the press that the restaurants downtown do, and you rarely hear much about it. But the food is delicious, the atmosphere is lively/casual, the service is friendly/efficient/casual, and I was once again impressed. This ranks as one of my best meals of this past year.
Deleece's everyday menu is very moderately priced, with entrees in the high teens to low twenties. (On Mondays and Tuesdays they also offer a limited three-course prix fixe menu for $20, which is what I did earlier in the year.) They offered a special four-course prix-fixe menu for New Year's Eve for $60, with wine pairings available for an additional $15. Their everyday menu was also available, which is nice because they aren't just taking advantage of the occasion by forcing everyone to pay higher prices.
When we were seated, we were brought two kinds of sliced bread - a sourdough and a whole-grain millet - with a scoop of nicely-flavored butter (I think it had a little honey in it and I'm not sure what else). We both decided to go with the special NYE menu.
Salad of Belgian endive, watercress, grilled pear, toasted cashews, goat cheese, emulsified sherry vinaigrette - this was very good, tasted exactly like it sounds.
Horseradish-beet cured salmon gravlox, caraway potato cakes, dill crème fraiche, pickled vegetables - this was excellent also. The beets gave the gravlox a redder color than usual, and the horseradish added a slight flavor although without the hotness. All four items, arranged across the plate, presented a nice contrast of flavors and textures, which was true of many dishes throughout the meal.
Parsnip-chestnut soup with roasted apples and white truffle oil - this was outstanding. There were chunks of chestnut, diced apple, and diced parsnip in the velvety soup, and the truffle oil added one more flavor to the mix. Just yummy!
Shellfish bisque with lobster and shrimp, VSOP brandy cream - Another excellent dish, also with a velvety/creamy consistency. It had that characteristic lobster flavor you get when you simmer lots of lobster shells in the broth, and it was also somewhat spicy. There were some chunks of seafood in it too.
Five-spice Indiana duck breast, butternut squash-sesame puree, roasted Brussels sprouts, leg confit spring roll, orange scented duck jus - This one requires some explanation, because it was more than the sum of the parts makes it sound. The spices gave the duck breast an Asian flavor that carried over to the other components. I don't care for Brussels sprouts, but these were really wonderful, with lots of added flavor; when we asked, our server explained that the sprouts are roasted and then simmered when sauteeing the duck breast. The whole thing worked beautifully.
Porcini crusted Chilean sea bass, celery root, fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, celery, trumpet royale mushrooms, port wine-thyme emulsion - Another excellent dish. The porcini mushrooms were in a layer on top of the thick sea bass filet, and added flavor without overpowering the buttery deliciousness of the fish.
Flourless chocolate torte, peppermint gelato, whipped marshmallow, espresso caramel - I asked to omit the espresso caramel because I don't care for coffee flavoring; they substituted some caramelized banana slices. I enjoy a really good flourless chocolate cake, but too often, I find that they are too dense (like a pavé) or too dry. Not here! This one had a moist, creamy consistency, but it was also light in texture, not dense and fudgey. This is one of the best flourless chocolate cakes you'll find anywhere.
Carrot cake with goat cheese frosting, candied walnuts, roasted pineapple, orange-maple sauce - This was very good, very moist without the overwhelming, cloying sweetness you sometimes find in carrot cakes.
As you can see, every dish was excellent, both delicious and creative/interesting!
The service was friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive. Our waitress, Julie, was helpful, and checked back with us shortly after each course was served to make sure everything was okay. I asked whether the parsnip soup still had chestnut in it - that word appeared in the description on the website menu but was omitted on the printed menu - and she was happy to check with the chef to find out. Everyone did their jobs with no glitches or problems, even though I'm sure New Year's Eve is one of their busiest nights of the year.
Deleece is very casual; the dining room has a long exposed-brick wall with artwork, and a large bar is in the middle of the room. It got a bit noisy at times, but not oppressively so, and besides, it was New Year's Eve, people were celebrating.
Again, this was an excellent dinner in every way. Granted, there was a special menu for New Year's Eve. But the entire experience was consistent with my previous dinner there. Chef Canfield, who was previously the sous-chef at MK, is quietly turning out great contemporary American food in a delightfully casual and intimate atmosphere and at very reasonable prices. Rock on, Chef, rock on!
4004 N. Southport
Parking around Deleece is easy, as long as it's not when a Cubs night game is going on. There were spaces on Southport, and the nearby side streets are NOT restricted to residents with a specific parking permit.
I should also clarify that the restaurant I am referring to is the one on Southport about half a mile north of Wrigley. I am not referring to their sister restaurant, Deleece Grill Pub, on Clark half a mile south of Wrigley. I would imagine they sometimes get confused with each other, and I bet this is the reason that they recently changed their names as shown on Opentable to add the street names in parentheses.
Deleece Restaurant (on Southport)
3747 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657