Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chez Moi

I really like French food but I have said this before.  When I think of French food, I think of steak frites, or escargot, pate, bouef bourgignon, and wonderful plates that look simple but are actually very complex.  They are also known as masters of sauces.  When I think of French food, tarts and sauerkraut are generally not the first thing that I think of.  They are, however, elements found in the food of Alsace-Lorain, an eastern province of France that has, depending on the war, either been part of Germany or France.  While it is right now part of France, the food there has a very strong German influence.  Chez Moi, a French restaurant in Lincoln Park that is headed by the chef of the former Bistro 110, has a menu that features the cuisine of Alsace-Lorain.  The restaurant is located on a corner which is also where the entrance is located.  When you enter, the place looks very small with a small bar and setting for about 30 people.  There is however, a second dining room that is found after walking through the kitchen staging area that is significantly larger and will seat about 60.  I was seated in the rear room.  It does have a classic bistro look to it with a lot of food and drink posters and a large wine rack by the bar and candles on the tables.  The lighting while modern, does have a classic feel to it, or at least blends well with the classic bistro elements.  All of this leads to a very relaxing and inviting space despite the fact that it is also quite loud.  For my first course, I had the Tarte aux Lardons (or Onion Tart with Bacon).  It was served on a wooden platter that looked like a cutting board and was topped with greens.  It was also larger than I expected.  With bacon and onions, this sounds like it would be fairly heavy but the opposite was true.  It was very light.  This was a very good thing considering the size of the dish.  The pastry crust was crisp, thin, and very airy.  The onions were carmelized and the bacon was chopped into small pieces and well distributed.  There was also a sour cream topping that I thought was a sour cheese. While there definitely a savory element to it, the bacon and the onions also brought a sweetness to it.  It was not what I expected of French food (which was part of the reason that I came here) but it was very good and was excited to see where this was going to go. 

For my next course, I went with Choucroute Alsacienne which is French for Alsatian sauerkraut.  I think of Sauerkraut as a classically German dish and like the German dish that I know and like, this was also dressed with sausage.  This version, unlike the German version that I know and like had several different types of meat as opposed to the one that I am generally used to.  In this case, in addition to the standard sausages, there was also Kessler Ham, Bacon, and Potatoes.  The dish was sweet, sour, very meaty.  The potatoes were cut into wedges and reminded me, with the sauce that was created from the meat and saurkraut, of German Potato Salad.  I have to say that I think that I like this better than the standard sauerkraut and sausages and it may have been my favorite dish.

For dessert, I think that I strayed away from the Alsatian fare although its still not what I would generally think of when I think of French desserts.  It was called a Gateau Breton Salidou and what it was was a Brittany Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce and Fromage Blanc Ice Cream.  In addition to the ice cream which itself was topped with a sprig of rosemary, the cake was also topped with a raspberry.  A Brittany Cake is kind of a cross between shortbread and pound cake.  It is kind of dense and is not exceptionally sweet but it was served warm and went well with the salted caramel sauce and the white cheese ice cream especially when the ice cream started to melt.  The cake itself was buttery and not something I might order by itself, but with the ice cream and caramel, it went well.

I really liked my dinner here.  The place is casual and inviting, the wait staff is friendly, and the food was good.  While the dishes were not things that I would think of as classically French.  It did broaden my ideas of what french food is and it was very acessible.  It was very good and I would easily recommend it to someone who likes French food but wanted to try something new.

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