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Weekend in (long) review - Kiki's Bistro, Spring and more, oh my!


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Weekend in (long) review - Kiki's Bistro, Spring and more, oh my!

jacinthe | Sep 21, 2003 11:39 PM

Thursday night, we went to Geja's Cafe, because it was close to her apartment and people from her work recommended it. It was very dim inside - probably to up the romance factor - but I felt like I had just entered a Bavarian restaurant, all dim lights and heavy wood everywhere. We started with a cheese fondue, moved on the "meal" of beef tenderloin and scallops, and finished with the chocolate fondue. The cheese and chocolate were fine, if not brilliant - the former was served with bread, apples, grapes and the latter with marshmallows (the chocolate is set aflame for their toasting), strawberries, pound cake, pineapple and cantaloupe. For the beef and scallops - they came raw, with 8 dipping sauces (teriyaki sauce, curry, melted butter, a dill sauce, BBQ sauce, horseradish, cocktail sauce and one I can't remember) with raw vegetables on the side. The premise was that you were to deep fry the food in a pot of hot oil that was on the table - easier said than done, because everything kept sliding off the fondue fork - and it was dark in the restaurant, which didn't help matters any. Also, frying all the different foodstuffs in oil isn't necessarily the best way to prepare them - and while, yes, there were sauces to dip them in, everything was very ... blah, is the only word I can think of. My little palm pilot review guide said it ranks as one of the top 10 romantic restaurants - maybe if you only come for the fondue. The smell of frying oil is not terribly attractive - well, unless you're into that sort of thing.

On Thursday afternoon, as I found myself on the Magnificent Mile after a morning spent at the Art Institute (pretty walk, it was such a nice day) - I decided to make a slight detour in my window-shopping to go to L'Appetito, based on a recommendation off this board. Ordered a sandwich of proscuitto, mozzarella, basil leaves drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with italian spices on foccacia, and got some pignoli cookies at the counter. Too much bread for me, I ended up discarding the bottom "slice" and folding the top over, but the sandwich was good, not fancy but nice and substantial, and it hit the spot after all that walking. The cookies were also very good - I only wish I had purchased more.

Friday night, my friend and I went to Kiki's Bistro. Because we none of the entrées were especially striking, and the appetizers looked so much better, we ended up ordering 6 appetizers to share, and then each of us got our own soup. Our waitress took our order with a raised brow, as if to say, "these two girls are nuts, there's no way they can possibly each this much food." Yes, it was the typical case of our eyes being much much much bigger than our stomachs. I started with the soup à l'oignon, my friend with the special soup of the day (which unfortunately I can't remember - but she said it was rather bland.) Mine was on the salty side, but the onions were nicely browned and I'm just a sucker for the gooey cheese on top. We then moved on to the pâté de foie de canard, which we both loved. A large slice was served with toasted brioche. It was nice and silky and flavourful. Next were two small crabcakes served with a mustard sauce, and a dish of frog legs served in a tomato-y cream sauce. The crabcakes were very good, but the frog legs were a bit overcooked and chewy in an unpleasant way. Didn't much like the sauce they were served with either. The last round were shrimp provençal, esgargots in a pesto-y sauce, and scallops. In this final round, the shrimp was by far our favourite, although we were so full we were just about to burst, but we couldn't help spoon some of the sauce over pieces of bread. The escargots were fine, if nothing special. I could have sworn that the menu read coquilles St-Jacques, but their presentation was unlike any coquilles St-Jacques I had encountered before, large scallops served in a buttery broth with wilted spinach and thin rounds of bell peppers. The scallops were slightly overcooked and chewy. Yes, we were stuffed at this point, and our waitress kept coming over to check on our progress, which was very very slow, and we couldn't even finish the scallops or escargots. Nevertheless, we still ordered dessert (because obviously everyone has two stomachs - the dinner stomach and the dessert stomach) - splitting a vanilla crème brulée that had chocolate at the bottom. It was very good, the chocolate a nice touch. Our waitress was very nice and friendly, service was wonderful (water glass was constantly being refilled without my having to ask, which I very much appreciate.) The food was slightly disappointing - maybe if we had actually ordered entrées we might have been happier.

After swearing that we were never going to eat again, we woke up the next morning ravenous anyway, and took a nice long walk to La Creperie, up on Clark Street in Lincoln Park. I know that I'll never find real crepes outside of France (if someone does, I'd looove to hear about it) - but, it's always worth trying. We both got the crepe florentine, which was a buckwheat crepe stuffed with a scrambled egg-spinach mixture, all topped with a fried egg and served with a side of bacon and home fries. It was greatly undersalted - although that could just be personal taste - yet anyway incredibly filling - I could only finish half of mine. But did that stop us from ordering dessert crepes? Of course not. I got a crepe with sugar and butter - both of which must have been incorporated into the buckwheat crepe batter, because I was served a dry folded sweeter crepe with a ribbon of whipped cream from a can - but nothing inside. No butter or sugar lining the crepe, to my dismay. My friend got a crepe stuffed with Nutella and bananas, which she enjoyed mightily. Service was a bit absent at times, but there was nothing really to complain about. It was all very so-so.

For dinner that night, we went to Spring. Stark, minimalist decor - for some reason, I was reminded of a high school cafeteria with a zen spa flair. Lychee martinis, recommended to us by the waitress, were lovely and surprisingly strong (although they lacked an actual lychee, which was a little disappointing). First was an amuse from the chef - a piece of bluefin tuna and some peppery lettuce served as a piece of sushi, the traditional seaweed wrapper replaced with a thin piece of dough? I wasn't sure what the wrapper was. My friend and I then split a torchon of foie gras, served with some very yummy heirloom tomato confit and little whole wheat english muffins. It was very very good, the foie gras nice and rich and smooth, the confit just sweet enough to offset the saltiness of the foie gras. I then got the duck breast served with little vegetables in a duck sauce reduction, my friend got some sort of Hawaiian fish - I really didn't pay too much attention to her dish, being far too focused on my own. The duck was good - served in thick slices à point, it was nice and juicy and - well, good duck always makes me happy. The vegetables were a bit lacking - the spinach? (some sort of dark wilted green) was too salty, the potatoes were just slightly undercooked, and I got exactly half of a very browned baby carrot and a few green beans. And while again we were full - well, dessert obviously had to be ordered, I had seen that panna cotta was on the menu. So that was what we ordered - a tahitian vanilla panna cotta served with an overlying layer of lime gelée, two small biscotti on the side. The biscotti had that metallic tang of a wee bit too much baking soda, unfortunately. The panna cotta was absolutely scrumptious, after the disconcerting layer of lime gelée was pushed aside - I like my panna cotta served simply, and wasn't a fan of the Jell-o layer (although to be fair, it tasted quite fine.. I just didn't want it.) All in all, the food was very good, if a few things were off (not enough to offset the entire dining experience, though). It was all ended with a small complimentary sake cup of hot chocolate (or rather, melted chocolate - it was soo dense - very good, but I was stuffed - again - by this point) and a warm washcloth for our hands. Service was very prompt - although there seemed to be a little too much obsessing over the placement of utensils and various plates (a rather amusing time was watching one busboy organise our entire table in preparation for the serving of the foie gras, only to have all his efforts promptly discarded as another reorganised everything.) I got lots of water again, which is always nice. I'd go back, especially if someone else was picking up the tab.

I wish I had gotten Mexican food, and pizza, and all those other things Chicago is known for - but I wasn't in the mood for them, unfortunately, and those are the types of foods I have to be in a particular mood for. Maybe on a future trip - another reason to return.

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