Friday, May 30, 2008

Lunch at Bistro 110 and Dinner at Old Town Brasserie, Chicago

Bistro 110: ExteriorWhen I received my class schedule from the school about a month ago, I noticed that I would have lunch from Bistro 110 and Everest, then dinner at chef Art Smith's house who owns Table Fifty-Two. From what I read on the internet they have positive reviews, so I asked my husband if he would like to go to Bistro 110 and Table Fifty-Two. Unfortunately he couldn't get a reservation at Table Fifty-Two, so he did some more research and came up with Old Town Brasserie. He decided to have lunch at Bistro 110 since it was located near our hotel (Park Hyatt Chicago) so he could just walk there, then had dinner at Old Town Brasserie before picking me up at the school.

Here's what he had to say about his lunch and dinner.
One of the best attribute of Bistro 110 was it's location, next to Michigan avenue and overlooking the Old Water Tower park. He actually got a window seat, which gave him plenty of sunshine for taking pictures, also important. The staffs were also quite friendly, without being too overbearing. Glancing through the menus, he went for the 'safe' choices (and a few recommendations from our research).

First came the bread basket, which included a warm baguette (nice), section of butter and roasted garlic. Good start so far. Then came the French onion soup, which unfortunately was disappointingly thin. Don't even bother with this.

Bistro 110: Bread, butter and roasted garlic Bistro 110: French onion soup
Bread, butter & roasted garlic and French onion soup

For the main entree, he ordered croque monsieur with a side of pommes frites 110. The croque monsieur was apparently another bad choice -- seems they have trouble with classic French bistro staples. The brioche was thin and plain, and overall didn't taste too good. He didn't finish this at all.

The pommes frites were crispy and thin. It was very interesting, and tasted pretty good. The problem was because of the crispiness it was a little hard to eat and some pieces were flying around. He also didn't want to get his hands dirty, which made it even tougher for him to enjoy (imagine using fork & knife).

Bistro 110: Croque monsieur (close up) Bistro 110: Pommes frites 110 (close up)
Croque monsieur and Pommes frites 110

Unnerved, he decided to go all the way with dessert. After asking for recommendations from the waiter, it came down to really 2 choices: the creme brulee or the chocolate cake. The creme brulee was apparently made famous when they first opened, i.e. their signature dessert. However, the chocolate cake (gateau "paradis au chocolat") was the new signature dessert. Given his disappointment with Bistro 110's classic French fare, and after hearing the explanations, he went for the chocolate cake. Thank goodness. It was really, really good -- the only dish that he actually enjoyed. The cake was moist, not too sweet with good chocolate flavor, and the caramel sauce let you control the sweetness. He said it literally melted in his mouth and one of the best he's had.

Bistro 110: Gateau paradis au chocolat (another view)
Gateau paris au chocolat

Old Town Brasserie: Exterior (another view)The dinner at Old Town Brasserie, though, went a little better. Since he had a 5:30 PM reservation, it was quite empty except for the bar area in the front. After asking for some recommendations from the waitress (and cross checking with my recommendations) he made his choices.

First off he was given an amuse bouche of parmesan cheese gougere. For appetizer, he had the terrine d'artichauts et coeur de palmier (artichoke & hearts of palm terrine). Very nicely plated, but he found parts of it too mushy while others were crunchy -- resulting in an uneven texture, and the flavor was a little bland.

For soup, he had the quite famous duck consomme. The consomme had a very strong flavor, maybe a little salty, that you can feel the duck fat on your lips. The truffle ravioli and vegetables gave a nice balance to the flavor, but duck was clearly the main flavor.

Old Town Brasserie: Amuse bouche - gougere parmesan cheese
Gougere parmesan cheese

Old Town Brasserie: Terrine d'artichauts et coeur de palmier (close up) Old Town Brasserie: Duck consomme
Terrine d'artichauts et coeur de palmier and Duck consomme

The main entree was an easy choice, he had the duo carre d'agneau et boeuf (rack of lamb and beef). He originally wanted the lamb cooked medium, but when told the chef recommended medium rare, he went with the recommendation. It turned out to be a wise choice. The lamb was really tender and juicy, in fact this was the first time my husband truly enjoyed rack of lamb. The beef was also well braised and very tender. The accompanying ratatouille and sauce complemented the meats very well. He finished this one without hesitation and highly recommends this dish.

Old Town Brasserie: Duo carre d'agneau et boeuf Old Town Brasserie: Duo carre d'agneau et boeuf (close up another view)
Duo carre d'agneau et boeuf

To finish the meal, he had the hazelnut souffle, which he said was also a good choice. I couldn't get a good description of it from him other than how much he enjoyed it. They also gave him some shortbread cookies and pates de fruits, which he brought back to the hotel for me to try (PH won, of course).

Old Town Brasserie: Le souffle - hazelnut (close up) Old Town Brasserie: Shortbread cookies and Apricot pates de fruits
Hazelnut souffle and Shortbread cookies & Apricot pates de fruits

As soon as we were back at the hotel, we went straight to bed since we had to wake up early to head home. I still couldn't believe that the 2-day Pierre Hermé class has over and I just had once in a lifetime experience, WOW! Thanks a lot to my husband for everything, especially for driving me all the way to Chicago only to attend my dream class. I love you, you are the BEST!


Bistro 110
110 East Pearson Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-3110

Old Town Brasserie
1209 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60610

Table Fifty-Two
52 W Elm St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 573-4000

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