August 29, 2010

Old Fashioned Restaurant Review Just Like When You First Met Me

Long long ago in a kingdom by the sea the first thing you saw of us was a cartoon couple that looked quite amazingly similar to those two creatures of the bistro gazing at you drunkenly on the right, in a world once known as Chasing Vincenzo.

We chased Vincenzo through three or four of the restaurants he worked in and - alas - lost sight of him altogether some years ago. It was a happy, apolitical, life-centered time of light-hearted comrades and scintillating conversation - if a little on the tipsy side.

Alas those days are far behind us, for no other reason than anything that contrived will always run its course. There really was a Vincenzo and we really did keep finding him in different restaurants. But we've since moved on to other ventures; shedding readers and associates liberally as we moved through the blogospecteramourspher in quite the haze.

But hark, even though the regular restaurant reviews have gone by the wayside (largely because we just wanted to eat, and taking pictures of the food was getting in the damn way) it doesn't mean we've ceased being denizens of that world.

Last evening we visited an absinthe bar ridiculously located in the far west / by northwest / suburbs. South Barrington by name. This is not an ordinary 'burb as in the past you would find such types as financiers, football stars, real estate moguls, and radio personalities in residence there. So though a French restaurant in our part of America truly belongs in the city if it wants to fight for street cred, it is understandable that it may also be located out here where there is an awful lot of discretionary capital going around.

Even with that, however, it isn't any more or less expensive than any place you would find in the city. Our full tab last night including a half hour at the bar beforehand + a champagne flight and tips was about $150. The main difference is that in the city we'd be squeezing our way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds just getting to a table, and last night when we walked from the bar out to our table on the sidewalk we were the only couple out there, and while in the bar we could hear the conversations of the three or four couples in the dining room if we really wanted to bother.

I've mentioned, you notice, the bar a couple of times now haven't I? It could possibly be because they serve a handful of authentic absinthes there, not the least of which is the Pernod kind. Oh and what do you know - Pernod is the original walkin- one and only according to their literature.They invented/created/introduced or whatever that devilish concoction of wormwood, thujone and fairy dust. The fun part, I have to admit (beyond the sipping) is the fact that we sat right before a crystal water-dripper apparatus that allowed us to inhale as we watched the drink go through its metamorphosis. MrsRW had champagne, which theme she continued out on the porch when she ordered a flight (3 small champagnes all in a nice tidy row there).

My bill of fare read as follows: A nice ceviche with shrimp and squiggly little tentacles and avocado and such. Then came the watermelon-ginger soup; a cold bowl that was refreshing and just a little exotic in taste (the ginger finish was pleasant but unexpected - in truth I've never had anything like that before) but perfect for a warm summer evening. And then - moving on to a Shiraz (which rarely fails with game) I had a combination plate that included quail, elk and lamb. Green onion stems and barley and I must say every individual meat was done per the book. This was all swarming in a chocolate sauce that left a really nice, ever-so-slight, hint of bitter cocoa reminder in your head.

Oh look, here's an actual picture of the very thing!

MrsRW started out with a plate of mussels and then moved on to a potato-leek soup. Her entree was what she described as a heavenly plate of osso buco - from which she pulled that marrow right out of the bone in her best Bourdain fashion and spread it on some bread... and then shared! What a gal.

In the interest of full disclosure this was our second trip. We went a second time because MrsRW loved it that much the first time. I myself was very disappointed by the rabbit I ordered the first time there. It was over cooked, quite frankly, and left a bad impression in that - ok if you're going to call yourself a bistro there's a couple of things you should do well - frites and rabbit. And they did neither well at all. However the rabbit was off the menu this time, making me want to believe that was a case of righteous self-editing rather than just running out of the dish; and I promptly gave them the benefit of the doubt.

The pedigree of the brains behind l'Eiffel Bistrot would tend to say that the fellows know what they're trying to do, and so I take the editing as a sign they weren't happy with the rabbit dish. I hope.

The other feature of the place you should know is the crepes. Creperie is the second part of their name, if in minor case. We haven't gotten to the crepes yet. But if the line of trajectory displayed from our first visit to last night's they should be grand.

One can only hope they picked the right location. If this place was in the city the crowd would be large until it either sank or swam on its own merits. Out in the bucolic, over-funded far burbs of Chicago it has located itself where the resources are, to be sure. But only time will tell if the locals recognize it is there amidst the Coldwater Creek, Kinga's European Children's Shoes, and Toms-Price (Stickley) Home Furnishings stores of this brick-walked shopping center.

Wow.... that was just like old times!


Avitable said...

That looks amazing. I need to try absinthe one of these days.

sybil law said...

Love this review.
I can honestly say I've never had marrow smeared on bread- shared or otherwise. Sounds... icky.

B.E. Earl said...

The next time I try absinthe, I have to try it with all the hoopla. I'm not a big fan of the flavor of the stuff, but I am a big fan of hoopla.

RW said...

avi - there's a right way and a wrong way. sounds like you need an expert to help you..... oh hai.

sybil - icky is not the word at all. It's sort of like the most delicate part of a steak with the consistency of something like an oyster that's a bit on the sweet side and just freaking fantastic. actually.

earl - see note to avi. and if you try and eat something with it you've just made a terrible mistake.