Tuesday, November 3, 2009

La Tache - Chicago, IL

Callous-un had a stack of those awesome restaurant discount cards, so we decided to go to a place she had wanted to try for a while. It’s a French Bistro & Bar, which doesn’t always lend itself to vegetarian tastes, but we thought we’d check out the menu when we got there and see if she could eat anything. When we got there, she asked to see a menu and told the host she was a vegetarian. He said he was as well and she’d be able to find something to eat here. We grabbed a table by the window.

This place is a classy French Bistro – super dim lighting, small intimate tables, gobs of old rich people, and words I can’t pronounce on the menu. We decided to go with a bottle of wine, since this is a pretty swanky place. I got a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which I’m usually good with. This bottle ended up being a 2007 vintage, so it was still a tiny bit tart. But all in all, it was still a decent bottle.

I was really torn on ordering off the standard menu or ordering off the prix fixe menu. The standard menu had some really good looking dishes on it, including venison and lamb, but the prix fie menu had some really tasty looking things on it, including all kinds of meat and seafood dishes. Callous-un decided on the Gnocchi which was one of a very select number of vegetarian dishes available. I finally caved and went with the prix fixe menu and ordered White Bean Soup with Bacon, a Glazed Duck Breast, and a Turtle Cake for dessert (at the insistence of Callous-un, who knows I’m not a dessert person).

I apologize for the darkness of the photos, but the place is really dim and I felt like it was too classy of a restaurant for me to send a blinding flash from the camera into the retinas of the other guests.

The White Bean Soup came out and was probably the highlight of the meal for me. Not only was the soup itself a combination of bacon drippings (aka wonderful delicious bacon grease), but it had pieces of super thick-cut smoked bacon in the soup itself. I was raving about it so much that Callous-un, a militant vegetarian, caved and tried a bite (without a bacon piece, so I guess it won’t stand up in vegetarian court or anything). She agreed it was phenomenal. Then I successfully thwarted all her attempts to get another bite. Truly one of the best soups I’ve ever had. And the portion was much larger than I expected at a French restaurant.

The entrees came out and also looked fantastic (though you can’t tell from the photos).

The duck breast was arranged in a very pretty pattern on the plate on top of some spinach leaves and pureed potatoes and turnips. There was a honey glaze on everything as well, which was awesome. The duck was good – not exquisite, but really good. The thing with duck is you have to eat it hot, because the fatty parts congeal and get weird textures if you let it get cold. I ate the duck first and didn’t end up having a single bad bite. All of it was good.

Callous-un’s Gnocchi was brilliant as well. It had more veggies in it than she thought it would and each pastry puff was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. There were peas, green beans, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, and some other stuff in there. It was better than my duck breast, and my duck wasn’t bad at all. I would recommend the heck out of the Gnocchi if you have the chance.

Since Callous-un wanted Turtle Cake, we got Turtle Cake. It was two soft brownie/cake pieces with a scoop of ice cream, sprinkled with peanuts, and drizzled with caramel. It was pretty good, as desserts go. I had more bites of it than I thought I would, but maybe because the duck was smaller than I expected and didn’t fill me up. The Turtle Cake was good, though there were a couple of other desserts that might have been fun to try. Maybe next time.

La Tache is a great French Bistro. It’s really some fantastic food and very French. Small portions, gloriously presented. It’s got a small-ish wine selection, but they had at least one thing I could drink there, so we got by.

Top 5 things about La Tache
1. White Bean Soup with Bacon
2. Gnocchi
3. Duck Breast
4. Turtle Cake
5. Very nice host/waiter

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s a tad on the pricey side (but thankfully, Callous-un paid)
2. Had to stop from asking for a sippy cup full of the bean soup with bacon…
3. Wine selection was pretty slim for an upscale French restaurant
4. The place really isn’t vegetarian-friendly
5. The place got REALLY loud with old stuffy people toward the end of the meal


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