Jason Paskewitz’s stunner on a hidden Lincoln Park cul-de-sac is a restaurant by grownups, for grownups. The elegance of the space, the expertise of the servers, the confidence pouring from the open kitchen: It all adds up to an instant Chicago classic. And it will undoubtedly become the veteran chef’s legacy.
Yet the Blanchard isn’t the slightest bit stuffy. An amusing horse-head sculpture surveys the airy bar space, and green leather banquettes line the dining room. Abstract art on the walls belies the kitchen’s often straightforward approach to classic French country fare: buttery escargots, juicy mussels marinière stacked with grilled baguettes, glistening free-range poulet rôti with haricots verts. It all looks familiar, and much of it is.
But Paskewitz’s canny crew, anchored by chef de cuisine Ryan Burns, also know how to take a beloved dish to a new level without desecrating it. They sneak bone marrow into the sizzling steak frites with bordelaise sauce and crispy hand-cut pommes frites, amplifying the tender richness of grilled beef tournedos. They crust seared foie gras with black truffles and pair it with candied lavender, and they elevate boeuf bourguignon from a fusty stew into a showstopping braised short rib with truffle aïoli, glazed beets, and baby carrots. It’s exciting to see a kitchen confident enough to play with the classics and skilled enough to succeed.
As if this weren’t enough, the pastry chef, Marjorie Easley, may be the most underrated dessert maker in Chicago. Her coconut financier, a magnificent tableau, unites insanely moist cake with squirts of passion fruit curd, drizzles of honey, and homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s quietly terrific, much like the small wine list and the adept staff. With all the pieces in place, the Blanchard is poised to impress diners for years to come. Which, all told, would be a pretty good way for Jason Paskewitz to be remembered long after he’s gone.