Saturday, August 13, 2011
The space in which the Red Canary is located has a good culinary history. Previous occupants have included Como, the Italian restaurant opened by the grandson of the Como Inn (which had been located across the street), and Avenue M, a very good steak house. The Red Canary has decided to go in a slightly different direction. Calling themselves a gastro-lounge, they serve simple American comfort food in a lounge setting. The setting of the lounge/restaurant plays on the age of the building which was built in 1874. The outside has several narrow reflective windows and the building is painted black on the lower floor and red on the upper floor. The entrance actually kind of reminded me of a speakeasy. The outer door opens into a hall that makes a couple of turns before coming to a solid wooden door. Before I opened that door, I was actually wondering if I was in the right place. Walking through the door takes you back to the time of the Great Gatsby. There are a couple of chandeliers, several pictures of starlets of the silent era, and the banquettes are covered in red velvet. It has a really nice retro feel and looked like a nice place to lounge. While the inside looked very nice, they have a large courtyard in the back which is where I chose to sit. While the courtyard looked very nice, the fences surrounding it were high and the brick walls of the building are ivy covered. There is some soft looking lounge furniture in one corner of the courtyard but the dining tables and chairs had a decidedly cheap feel. They were metal, but they looked like garden furniture that you might find in any suburban back yard. The waitresses were either Gatsby era or were rock girls. My waitress was dressed as from the Gatsby era and was very friendly. She quickly brought me my first drink and a bowl of popcorn (which is served instead of bread). I looked through the menu and made my choices which actually came pretty quickly. The menu was divided into bites, intros, and mains and of course I had to try something from each section. To be completely honest, there really wasn't anything that excited me. There wasn't anything that looked bad but there also wasn't anything that really looked exciting. I started with Deviled Eggs which were served with Candied Bacon. While bacon makes everything better, while deviled eggs aren't bad, they also aren't terribly exciting and are actually pretty boring. The bacon helped but the deviled eggs were still kind of boring. My next course was Seared Scallops with Mango Pico de Gallo and a Cilantro leaf garnish. The scallops were cooked well and the mango and cilantro did complement the flavor and texture of the scallops. This was probably the best course of the meal but while it was good, I think that it was overshadowed by the aesthetic of the restaurant.
My main course was a Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Leeks, and Parmesan Cheese, and Mushroom Sauce. If you couldn't guess, it was pretty mushroomy. The vegetables were crisp and the ravioli was well cooked. I really like mushrooms and while this wasn't bad, I have also had better. They could have used a greater variety of mushrooms than simply mushrooms and there wasn't much texture to the filling of the ravioli.While I wasn't terribly impressed with dinner, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and decided to give them another chance with dessert. There was no dessert menu, my waitress recited the offerings (there were three) and the one that stuck out for me was the Key Lime infused White Chocolate Mousse Cake with Blueberries. She compared it to a Key Lime Pie and I really like Key Lime Pie. To me, it was more like a cheesecake covered in blueberries which is also good but not what I was expecting.
While I liked the aesthetic of The Red Canary and I really wanted to like the restaurant as a whole, I really couldn't because the food was just not that impressive. The gastro- part of gastro-lounge implies good food which you can see by visiting any of the good gastro-pubs in the Chicago area (The Gage, Owen and Engine, Longman and Eagle, Bangers and Lace). While they do have the lounge part down, they really need to work on their food.