Jfood decided to try new restaurants this week and his first choice was Café Levain. He understands that this used to be a high end restaurant but changed its MO and is now more mid-level. For those of you who have never been there, be aware that the address is South Chicago but the entrance is on 48th.
The inside feels like a combination of colonial America and a French Bistro. Along the center of the ceiling are three long bars to which the overhead lighting fixtures are attached. The fixtures themselves are candle type indirect lighting giving the Colonial feel. There are also spotlights along two of the walls as well as wall fixtures on back wall. The open kitchen gives plenty of extra light. There is also a private wine tasting room off the back.
There are ten 2-tops, 11 4-tops and a larger round table. There are also 2 bars, one overlooking the kitchen w four seats other with six seats
On a cold December evening there were four tables occupied at 7PM. The menu is small menu and is very similar to the one on the website.
Jfood ordered the onion soup for an appetizer and the short ribs for his entree. His waitress explained that he would also receive one side so he ordered the mushrooms. The onion soup intrigued him since it was listed with St. Pete’s Blue Cheese and he had never eaten onion soup with that type of cheese.
The waitress brought three slices of bread and butter. The bread was not heated (it would have been a nice touch) but the butter was nicely softened. The bread was fairly tasteless as well as the butter.
Onion soup -
When the waitress brought the onion soup Jfood smiled and stared. Vertically embedded in the cheese were a half a dozen thinly sliced onion rings. They were nice and crispy and salted. The best word to describe the soup is bold. The cheese was bold the beef broth was even bolder. There were very few onions to be found, which was a disappointment. Jfood thought the cheese and broth fought a major flavor battle and the palate was the collateral damage. It was just too much together with no balance.
Short Rib –
Now onto the great news. If you are looking for a short rib that will knock your socks off, Levain is your place. They served one large boneless piece. The meat is perfectly cooked (although on the first attempt was not as hot as Jfood would like so he asked for it heated a little more), the flavors are outstanding and the size is perfect to fill you, but not bloat. Jfood slowly sliced each piece, and just closed his eyes while chewing. You could feel the love that the chefs placed into the meat along with garlic and other spices. The garlic background was perfect, and the other flavors blended perfect. And the mushrooms were quickly sautéed, maintained their crunch and were divine. Jfood had found Short Rib Nirvana.
So for the short rib alone, Jfood would wander back to Café Levain for a second attempt, but he would stay away from the onion soup.