Wednesday, March 12, 2014


While the weekend is the hot time to go out for dinner, I actually like to hit a neighborhood restaurant during the week.  I generally don't have to worry about a reservation and it gives a smaller business some business at a time when they might not see many customers.  I went to Deleece recently for a midweek dinner.  While it is now located next to the Mercury Theatre in the Southport Corridor in Lakeview, this is a new location.  It has a long history up the road just north of Irving Park Rd.  With the new location, there is also a new chef and while they are still offering contemporary takes on American dishes, the only thing that is the same between the two restaurants is the ownership and because of that, the name.  This is neither good nor bad, but simply an observation.  As I mentioned, they are next to the Mercury Theatre.  In fact, they are so close to the Mercury Theatre that they share an entrance and you have to walk by the ticket booth to enter the restaurant.  Obviously they count on a lot of theatre traffic which is advantageous to both parties because many theatre goers enjoy dinner before the show.  The dining room is open and seats about sixty.  The bar is next to the entrance and the kitchen is carved out of the corner opposite the entrance.  Seating is at a banquette on a wall opposite the entrance, four tops through the center and along the front window wall, and a communal table which seats about twelve beside the bar.  The walls are antique brick and have several old theatre posters, except for the previously mentioned front window wall, the large mirror behind the bar, and the flat black wall dividing the kitchen from the rest of the room.  The ceiling was tin painted white and the light was from the front window, track lighting, and a couple of chandeliers over the bar.  There were tea lights at the tables as well but I really don't know if they really contributed that much light to the room.  The room was pretty dim especially for those seated away from the window.  I was seated at the banquette next to the window so I was probably in one of the brightest spots in the room.  The cocktail list at Deleece plays on the fact that the restaurant is next to a theatre and many of the cocktails have names referring to the theatre.  I had The Understudy which contained Absolut, St. Germain, Fresh Lime, and Cashew-Walnut Orgeat Syrup.  It was a mild drink that had a nutty and slightly floral taste with a tart finish from the lime.
 The appetizer list featured a lot of appetizer standards like PEI Mussels, salads, calamari, and a cheese board.  I went with something that sounded a little different.  I didn't realize that the reason that it sounded different was that if it was a little bigger, it would have fit well as an entree.  I had Mushroom Sherry Beef with Cherry Tomatoes served over Cous Cous.  It actually reminded me of a Chinese stir fry.  The meat was thinly sliced and tender, there was a prominent sherry smell and flavor and there was enough sauce to flavor the tender cous cous well.   The tomatoes were sliced in half so they didn't explode hot in your mouth when you bit into them but they did remain juicy and they added flavor to the dish.
For my entree, I went with something that I probably would not eat at home.  I ordered New Zealand Double Cut Lamb Chops with Julienned Carrots and Zucchini over Smashed Garlic Potatoes which was one of the specials.  I like lamb, but it is easy to overcook, so it isn't something that I would readily prepare myself.  The chops were cut two ribs to a chop in tomahawk style and were cooked medium rare.  The meat was tender, came off the bone pretty easily, and had a good flavor.  The zucchini and carrots were stacked next to the chops on top of the garlic mashed potatoes.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp and were a good combination with the lamb and the potatoes.  The potatoes were creamy and had a strong garlic flavor.  On their own, the garlic would have been too much but the flavors of everything else, the vegetables and the lamb, helped to moderate it.
I didn't think about the fact that entrees frequently are served with a vegetable and  thought that since I had ordered two courses that were essentially meat, I should add a vegetable to balance things out.  I ordered Brussels Sprouts with Red and Yellow Peppers and Neuske's Bacon.  The dish was very colorful and well prepared.  The brussels sprouts were halved and like the peppers, were cooked to a point that reached some softness but still remained crisp.  Neuske's Bacon is a small producer from Wisconsin that makes some very good bacon and this was very good bacon.  Bacon and Brussels Sprouts make a good pairing and while everything was prepared well, it didn't feel like a finished dish.  Everything here was good but it seemed to need something else.
By this point of the meal, I was feeling a bit full, but I did want to get dessert.  I knew that I wasn't going to get something heavy, like a chocolate cake, so I went with something that, while lighter, was still very good.  I got a Mint Chocolate Baked Alaska.  While it was basically monochrome, it was still a very nice looking dish that obviously took some time.  A Baked Alaska starts with a piece of sponge cake on the bottom, which is topped with ice cream and covered with meringue which is then browned.  The ice cream was an artisan mint chocolate chip and the meringue was formed into flowers.  It was then placed on a plate striped with chocolate sauce.  It was light and very minty, so it would probably not be a favorite of those that don't care for mint.  I like mint, so it wasn't an issue.

While everything here was not absolutely perfect, it was good.  I liked the space and the food was good.  It would be a good place to start an evening, whether the theater next door, the Music Box down the street, or another entertainment venue in the area.

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