A Tale of Two Restaurants, and a comment on Tru


Chez Moi

2100 N. Halsted

Chicago, IL

Chez Moi is in the old Café Bernard space, but I am sorry to say that I disagree with the high praises Chez Moi gets.  I was expecting to be impressed as this place was recommended by ex Parisians, and I had read some good reviews as well.  I can’t fault the service, or the home made Lemoncello, but the food was surprisingly pedestrian.   My escargot were small and rather tasteless with not enough parsley garlic butter (which is the whole point in ordering the escargot in the first place), the trio of asparagus purée, ratatouille and olive tapenade were uninspired and under seasoned for the first two and over seasoned for the tapenade.  My beurre blanc trout was perfectly cooked, but no flash of brilliance here either.

Now, I must admit to a pet peeve here.  When I order diver scallops, I get really offended when served obviously cut horizontally in half  scallops, no matter how well prepared.  Especially when I’m charged nearly $30 for 3 half scallops.

I guess that I was disappointed as my expectation had been set so high, and I was so underwhelmed.  I have no plans to return.

Magnolia Cafe

1224 W Wilson Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 728-8785

Category: American (New)
Neighborhood: Uptown

10/14/2013

We had dinner at the Magnolia Cafe Saturday night, and it was wonderful.  Just a couple of blocks from the tackiness of Wilson and Broadway, the restaurant reflects the gentrified ambience of the area west of Racine (the next block has that indicator of upward shift, a Starbucks).  A double storefront, with a pleasant bar and tables not on top of each other, the aspect of the place is pleasing.  Prices are much higher than what one would expect from the location (entrees in the $20-$30 range), but value for the money is provided with the quality of the food, the competent care in its preparation, and the excellent service.
We were four for dinner, and started with 2 orders of crab cakes, served on a bed of sautéed sweet corn with a delightful caper aioli.  The crab cakes were full of crab without a lot of binder and tasted great.  I had the beef tenderloin, served on a bed of sautéed spinach with fingerling potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, with wild mushrooms and a red wine reduction.  The beef was a generous portion of perfectly tender steak, cooked to the requested medium rare.  Yum!  My wife had the fresh fish special, swordfish prepared in the same sauce and accompaniments as the tenderloin, and it was equally excellent.  D*** had the short ribs, juicy and melt in your mouth, served with a side of bacon mac ‘n cheese plus onion rings.  J*** had the hanger steak with fries, the cafe’s version of steak frites, with a topping of blue cheese.  We also had a side of the onion rings for the table, cooked just right in a light and crunchy beer batter.

For dessert, we split one order of the excellent bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and drizzles of dark and milk chocolate.

When a restaurant can satisfy four customers so well, they are obviously doing everything right.  I highly recommend Magnolia Cafe, and hope that they continue to exceed expectations.

On a note about wine, we had a bottle of Eruption, a California red wine meritage from Brassfield (2011).  Wonderfully rich and full of fruit, it almost makes up for the fact that the restaurant gets $42.00 for a $15.00 bottle of wine.

Tru

676 N. St. Clair

Chicago, IL

I was at Tru for an ophthalmology event, and while it is probably not fair to judge the restaurant on a “catering” menu of 3 courses, I think it is fair to make some comments.  For the prices charged by Tru, there is no way I could rhapsodize about a wonderful meal.  It also calls to question how places like Tru can survive in the current economy.  Admittedly, it was a Wednesday night, but the main dining room was fairly empty.  With all the staff standing around, one has to wonder if they did enough business to pay expenses.  My menu consisted of a citrus “amuse bouche,” a salad of 4 romaine leaves dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette with 2 small figs cut in half and a couple of small pieces of baked prosciutto.  My entrée was a small piece of tender grass fed tenderloin, served medium, not medium rare as requested.  The sauce was over salted, which I think is inexcusable for a restaurant of this caliber.  Dessert was a piece of chocolate flourless cake with cocoa nibs and served with raspberries. Gale Gand, I am sorry, but this doesn’t reflect your talents well.  What happened to the “wow” factor that Tru had offered in the past?  It was not evident Wednesday!  Without that extra power, what is the incentive to pay these prices?

 

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About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. The fun is getting it right, whether I make it or someone makes it for me. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews! All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise (I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself) and when I am not the originator they are correctly attributed to the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. Untested recipes that have been posted are revised once they have been made and evaluated in an effort to keep old posts accurate and current.
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