I first went to Bistronomic a few years ago, before going to an American Chamber Opera performance, so I took note when I saw Phil Vettel’s review of their Restaurant Week offerings. Because the James Beard Awards are being hosted in Chicago for the first time this year, Bistronomic has taken their inspiration for their Restaurant Week menu from The Essential James Beard Cookbook. I visited for their three-course lunch, offered for $22.
I started with the vichysoisse, which is poured table-side over croutons. The soup is smooth and light; interestingly, it is also served piping hot. The warmth is welcome on a winter day in Chicago, but vichysoisse is typically served cold (including in the recipe Bistronomic cites from The Essential James Beard Cookbook). The croutons are fresh, not too crunchy, and melt into the soup, which tastes faintly of leeks. I don’t taste tanginess from crème fraiche, but the fattiness coats my lips a bit. I typically like more from a soup – more textural contrasts, more acidity, more variation from one spoonful to the next – but this is a classic.
For my main course, I chose the coq au vin. Both the white and dark meat of the chicken is tender, although the thigh is drier than I was expecting. The garlic puree is fantastic, with deep roasted garlic flavor and a smooth, almost silken consistency. I would have liked more of the reduction, but both the potatoes and the mushrooms are well-executed. The arugula topping the dish cuts through the richness a little.
Although I was looking forward to the pear tarte tatin the most of the dishes, it turned out to be the most disappointing part of the meal. It is definitely not a traditional tarte tatin, nor does it follow the James Beard recipe. This dessert is a very, very thin piece of pastry covered in pastry cream, topped with two pear segments and chantilly cream. The pear is cold and crunchy, clearly underripe, and they left the stem on one of the pear wedges. The pastry cream is rich and speckled with vanilla bean seeds; it has good flavor, but it’s a tiny bit lumpy. The pastry at the bottom is still crisp enough to make noise when cut and very sweet from the caramel sauce underneath. The pear is too hard to cut with the spoon they gave me; once I asked for a knife and fork, it was much easier to eat. Except for the pear, the dessert is tasty, but it’s not what I was expecting, and it ended the meal on a low note.
The service was perfunctory, although the restaurant was quite busy. It was a good meal, but the disappointing dessert left me more focused on the undercooked pear than on the value of the meal.
Bistronomic – 840 N Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60611