Monday, March 7, 2011
One of the many wonderful events in Chicago is Restaurant Week. This is a week in February in which many Chicago restaurants have prix fixe multi-course menus for either $33 or $44. Besides Valentine's Day, there is not much good about the month of February- it's usually cold, dark and still so far from Spring- the perfect time to get a group of friends together to feast!
So Sara, Wendy, Laura and I headed out to Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese place near the Viagra Triangle*. It had been on our "list" of restaurants to hit before Sara and Laura move away in June ;(, so this seemed like a good time to go.
This may seem like an odd thing to say, but I love the Le Colonial webpage. The music is so great! When I was checking out the menu, I left the music on for a good half hour- I sorta forgot it was from the website, I guess I thought I was on Pandora or something.
I give the ambiance of Le Colonial a B+. I like the trees, the lighting was okay, the flatware fine. But everything seemed just a touch old. Not bad, actually pretty nice, but just a B+.
The service was good. The servers gave us plenty of time and space- we actually spent 3 hours there! I kept an eye out and there were plenty of open tables so I thought it was fine for us to loiter, but I still appreciate that the servers didn't hound us about paying the check!
Besides the company, which is always the best part of the meal, the food was the highlight of this experience. While the ambiance, the service and the wine list were all very good (not great, not excellent, just very good), the food might bring me back a second time. Probably in the summer, to eat al fresco.
So what did I eat? I was happy to have specific recommendations from a colleague at work (thanks LVW!) and was glad to see 2 of them on the prix fixe menu. I started with the Ca Song, tuna tartare with tomatoes, cilantro, & cucumber, tossed in ginger soy dressing, with wonton crisps. This was excellent. And this comes from someone who just returned from eating tons of good fish in Hawaii. The portion is HUGE though, so I'd definitely recommend sharing it b/t 2 or 3 people.
For my main, I had Ca Nuong La Chuoi grilled trout with oyster mushrooms, dried mushrooms & cellophane noodles, served steamed in a banana leaf with curry sauce on the side. I was a bit dubious that trout could be all that interesting, but I went with my friend's recommendation. And I'm so glad I did! The presentation was unique and the combination of fish, mushrooms and curry sauce was really tasty and interesting. I might order this again if I return. Again, the portion is huge, though- it'd be better to split.
For dessert, I had a Banana wonton creation. I don't remember the details, but it was good. But the standout here was really the main course.
I would definitely recommend this place. The food makes it worth a visit and the ambiance and service is pleasing enough. Let's face it, there aren't all that many French-Vietnamese joints around!
**The Viagra Triangle is a triangular shaped area near the Rush street nightlife district in Near North Chicago. It is so named because there are so many 50-70 year old somewhat skeezy men with their 20-30 year old girlfriends and mistresses. Basically lot of rich guys in the midst of mid-life crises.