photo: the dining scout
The only times we could score a rez at Carrie Nahabedian's newest place were at 5 pm or 10 pm. We took 10 pm. The place was about half-full and still on the noisy side. Wood floors, linens on tables, high ceiling, and a gorgeous naked window overlooking a not-so-gorgeous stretch of Clark Street.
Oh, I thought: It looks like Naha Junior. Mostly minimalistic and monochromatic. The bare branch theme shows up here in artwork on the walls instead of in room dividers as at Naha. Turns out they used the same designer for both restos. Here are a few more words on the aesthetic.
You must order your whole meal at once, so the kitchen can properly pace your meal. No rush.
The menu is oh-so French. C’est vrai. The menu is also oh-so cher. Entrées range from $38 to $48.
That said, I found the menu so appealing that ordering was almost stressful. I wanted it all. But I eventually narrowed it down.
Here's everything I tasted:
- Frog Legs, Blanc-manger of Cauliflower and Parsley, Ramps, Hazelnuts and Green Garlic $18
- Steak Tartare with Flavors of Rye, Sorrel, Tarragon, Pickled Mustard Seeds and Quail Egg $21
- Veal Sweetbreads, Loin and Rack of Rabbit, Fiddlehead Ferns, Golden Beet and Cacao $19
- Salad of Soft Lettuces, Tartine of Easter Egg Radish, Crottin and Caramelized Almond $17
- Lobster Brindille, Black Trumpets, Coco Beans and Pebble Potatoes, Fragrant Flowers, Coral Butter and Vanilla $48
- Dover Sole Meunière, Asparagus Viennoise, Grapefruit and Lemon Balm $46
- Tranche of Duck Breast, Foie Gras and Wheat Berries, Young Carrots and Turnips, Watercress and Candied Orange Peel $43
- Paris-Brest of Strawberries, Fromage Blanc, Carmelized Hazelnuts and Rose $12
- Fantaisie au Chocolat $14
Some notes on the food:
Bread service was fairly typical sourdough slices with a cute ramekin of butter. But no one said it was honey butter. Why do restaurants think they have to jazz up one of God’s most perfect foods? Butter should taste like butter.
An aside: I think we were on our appetizers when a staffer ironed the tablecloth on the table next to us. Can’t decide if this was annoying or amusing.
Frog legs do taste like chicken, but more delicate and it’s easy to overcook them to toughness. Carrie Nahabedian got these just right. Lightly breaded and tender and juicy. Not swimming in butter. Thank you.
Steak tartare had the cutest fried quail egg perched on the crispy rye cracker thingy. I carefully moved it to the meat, poked the yolk with a fork and mixed it into the meat for maximum pleasure. The pickled mustard seeds gave the tartare another bump in flavor and texture. Big yum.
The veal sweet breads were a photo op waiting to happen, what with a tiny rack of rabbit and a chunk of loin adding to the party on the plate. I enjoyed the textural interplay of the fiddlehead ferns, beets, and cacao. Too bad the sweetbreads were a tad overcooked.
Loved, really loved, the salad of soft lettuces with crottin goat cheese and caramelized almond bits. The fancily named Easter egg radish slices tasted just like … uh … radishes. Perfectly dressed and all delish. But what made this worth $17?
The lobster Brindille must have been lobster meat from an entire critter. Meaning, there was plenty of lobster. That was nice. I found the whole concoction a bit too floral and vanilla-y. But I didn’t dare tell my orgasmic dining companions that I wasn’t deeply in love with the signature dish.
My entrée fave was the duck. Overlapping slices of medium rare breast, a silky chunk of foie, wheat berries, and root veggies. All good and not overwrought with specialty flavors.
The delicate sugar dome protecting the chocolate fantasy dessert surprised me. I thought those fancifications went out with the last century. Still drew oohs and aahs, though.
One last anecdote: Carrie Nahabedian chatted up our table. She told us that the mayor couldn't get a rez for his party of 8—so she booked him at Naha instead.
The bottom line:
Brindille is a grown-up spot with grown-up food and very grown-up prices. What I thought was going to be a charming neighborhood bistro is a charming neighborhood bistro—for a special occasion.
Brindille (4.26.13) 534 N. Clark 312-595-1616 @Brindille_Chgo