Like many Chicagoans in the last few months of winter, I’ve been in hibernation. Not necessarily on purpose-we took a vacation to Orlando in early February, and returned so sick from a cocktail of various ailments (the most serious of which was bronchitis), that we retreated to our house and didn’t come out unnecessarily for three more weeks.
Gary Cole once said, “I miss everything about Chicago except January and February.” And although as a big city there’s still plenty to do this time of year everywhere in this area, I would have to say there’s at least a modicum of truth to this sentiment, especially with the giant snows we had starting the very first few days of February.
But the return of March Madness lifts my spirits, especially since I’m a huge Kansas fan. Even though we lost on Sunday-mercifully, I missed the giant loss to VCU because I was at the Northlight Theater enjoying a lovely production of “Sense & Sensibility,” by this time I’m at least ready for spring.
Following the show, I visited my first new restaurant in what seemed like ages. My friend who accompanied me to the show wanted to try it, and I’m always game so I agreed. We visited a cute and elegant little restaurant called Bistro Bordeaux, which is right in downtown Evanston. Evanston, you may know, is the suburb just north of Chicago and home to Northwestern University. It’s one of the more interesting and urban suburbs, and accessible by the El on the purple line.
As soon as I entered the place seemed familiar. I used to visit the restaurant all the time several years ago when it was home to Mt. Everest, a favorite Indian food restaurant. Mt. Everest moved to a different space down the block, but I’ve always liked this little storefront better. There’s a certain elegance to it, dark woods and romantic lighting-it has always seemed very suitable for a date night or an intimate gathering with friends.
It’s been a really long time since I visited a French restaurant. In fact, I can’t even pinpoint the general year or season. Partially this is because my husband and I opt for more vegetarian-friendly foods when we go out together. Which is why I need to go out with my female friends more often. We started the meal off with crusty bread and softened butter, and my appetizer was escargot swimming in an herbed melted butter sauce. To me, the sauce makes the escargot and it was perfect. Escargot, I imagine, can get rubbery if not cooked well, but these little snails had a good texture and taste. My friend ordered pork terrine, which arrived with mustard and crostini and little miniature pickles (I think). It was very tasty as well. The appetizer menu also includes foie gras, soup of the day (celery root), a tarte of the day (like quiche) and oyster of the day.
My main dish was scallops with a Black truffle hollandaise sauce, featuring toasted almonds and French gream beans. The dish was called Coquille St Jacques Poellees, Haricot Vert Amandine, Sauce Hollandaise Truffee (isn’t the Internet a great thing?). The scallops were extremely well-cooked and the truffle sauce creamy and full of flavor. But I love French fries as well, so I ordered a side of the restaurant’s Pommes Frites with a garlic mayonnaise. These slim, crispy fries are cooked in beef tallow; they’re salty, skinny and delicious. I’d go back just for them.
My friend had the Aile de Raie Rotie a la Grenobloise et son Choux Fleur Caramelize-that translates to roasted skate wing, caramelized cauliflower, capers, brioche croutons, little pieces of lemon supreme and a brown butter sauce. This was also very flavorful and yummy.
We took a wine recommendation from the waiter to go with our seafood meals, and shared a split of Champagne. I don’t for the life of me remember the names-I’m quite bad at that-but I do remember that the wine list, on the back page of the menu, was very well-done and comprehensive.
We had no room for dessert, which was fine, since I’m attempting to be healthier as part of my new year’s resolution. I’m one of those people who gain weight by looking at food. And I have to tell you-despite all the salty fries, the escargot in melted garlicky butter and the bread and butter that came with our meals, I somehow managed not to gain a single pound from that meal.
So, I can wholeheartedly recommend this place, if you’re looking for a romantic French meal. Entrees cost between $20 and $30; the Chateaubriand for two clocks in at just under $30 per person. I think we’re going back for Sunday brunch next. It sounds divine…
618 Church St., Evanston, IL