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ulterior epicure

Old Town Brasserie

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I *don't think* there's a thread dedicated to Old Town Brasserie.

I a big fan of Liccioni's cooking and am thrilled to see that the Le Francais closing wasn't the last of him. I've read Phil Vettel's review. I'd love to hear about yours.

The website is spartan - unfortunately, their menu link doesn't work (or, hasn't been uploaded yet?). I hear they have a late-night menu that starts at 10.30. Apparently, this place is open until 2am.

Metromix lists hours (for the Brasserie) for Sunday-Friday, but I assume that it's open Saturday (it says there's live music Thursdays-Saturdays after 10pm). And, it says the "Market" (which I assume is a less formal quick-eats cafe section?) is open daily from 11am-7pm.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Going on Saturday (UE...I'm starting to think I should be charging you for all of this advance scouting  :wink: ).  I'll report back.

Well, I surely do appreciate it. Let me know if you need me to scope out anywhere in KC for you! Of course, I'll trade places with you and would be happy to scope out places in Chicago... :raz:

Please do find out if they are open for Sunday dinner! Thanks!


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Just got back from a really lovely dinner at Old Town Brasserie.

The interior of the restaurant is gorgeous, with lots of wood and nice soft lighting. The crowd is a little Viagra Triangle, which had me worried at first, but after tasting the food that was just an afterthought.

I started with a selection of three housemade pates: chicken liver, duck and (I believe) something pork-based. All had just the right amount of richness and it was very obvious that a lot of care went into making them. The Wife had a salmon and crab terrine which looked beautiful. I only managed to snag a small bit...her plate was cleaned pretty quickly.

For my main course I went with the duo of rack of lamb and Kobe beef. The lamb came in the form of two nice sized chops cooked to an absolutely perfect medium rare. This lamb was nice and lamby (in a good way), rather than just being tasteless generic meat product. The Kobe beef had been braised for 72 hours. It sounds silly and trite, but the best word I can use to describe the beef is "luxurious". It had such a lovely richness, it's just hard to explain here. Go taste it, you'll understand. I also managed to get a taste of the cobia, which was a special tonight. The fish was perfectly cooked, the sauce (didn't get what is was) was nice and light and complimented the fish beautifully. The table also got an order of fries served with a curry aioli...delicious.

I had a coconut souffle for dessert which was fantastic and light as a feather (it also didn't hurt that I ordered it with chocolate sauce instead of the default coconut sorbet).

Service was professional and efficient.

Here's what I like about Old Town Brasserie. It's the type of place that will satisfy many different types of diners. The "foodie" can eat with the "non-foodie" and both will leave satisfied. It's a nice dinner without being fancy, appetizers around $10 and main courses in the $20's.

Based on the crowd there tonight and how good the food was, I think this place is going to be around for a loooong time. I will definitely be back.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I'm scratching my head today thinking about the distinctively unpleasant experience I had at Old Town Brasserie last night. In fact, I cannot recall any single dining experience at which I've encountered such complete indifference and inconsideration as I did last night. And given how much I was looking forward to it, the experience was especially disappointing.

In 1996 I had one of the most memorable and enjoyable meals of my life at Le Francais, with chef Liccioni at the helm. As a relative neophyte to fine dining at the time, I was concerned going in, that it would be stuffy, stodgy and overly formal. Happily, the exact opposite was true. We were treated warmly by a well-trained staff who had good senses of humor. We were immediately disarmed, made to feel welcome and treated kindly. The food was glorious and stunning, and in many ways, that meal changed my life.

Now that chef Liccioni has moved into a supposedly more informal brasserie venue, the last thing I expected was pretense and snobbery coming from the FOH, but that's exactly what we encountered last night, and we received it in droves. From the moment we entered the restaurant, we were treated like our presence was a burden. Considering I'd made the reservation a month in advance, I was confused as to why. It's not like we'd shown up naively without a reservation and begged to be seated. We asked for no favors other than a venue in which to spend our money on a (hopefully) fine meal. But even taking us to our table was done with a sigh, although I have no idea what that sigh meant. I have always defended chef Roland -- even going so far as to question publicly why he was left off a list of Chicago's 50 Top Chefs a few years back, when he was back at Le Francais for his second stint. But at Old Town Brasserie, he's got a cast around him that aren't doing him any favors. It's ironic to me that in the less formal Brasserie setting, the air of pretense among the FOH'ers was so palpable -- especially when it didn't exist at all at Le Francais (or at Les Nomades, during Roland's run there).

Perhaps part of the problem with OTB is simply one of design. Clearly, there are too many tables in this restaurant and they are obviously way too close together. Does this reflect naked greed on the part of management or simply obliviousness? I'm not sure but no one in the joint seemed to be comfortable. Looking around the room during our meal, seating one party nearly always seemed to involve moving a table, or one patron fighting to squeeze past another patron who was already seated.

Our party of 4 ended up in the very back corner of the restaurant at a table that was so crammed into its space, it could barely be serviced by the staff. And I'm not exaggerating. We had to hand some of our used plates to the busboys because they could not otherwise reach them. One of my companions was served a soup terrine minus its lid because there was just no way for any staffer to reach the terrine and remove the lid once it was placed on the table. Facing the wall as I was, I had the 'pleasure' of the busboy's genitals being mashed into the back of my right shoulder repeatedly over the course of the evening. I joked that I didn't know figs were on the menu. And speaking of menus, the one I was originally given had both food and wine stains on it. Damn! It bemused me to receive such a shoddy experience from a staff who acted as if they were bothered by our very presence. Oh the irony!

Maybe this led to the FOH's generally lousy attitude. Perhaps they'd also had enough of forcing diners into spaces too small and trying to do their jobs in a restaurant that was clearly too small for the number of diners it housed. Maybe we'd done nothing more than stroll unwittingly into ongoing battle, the proportions of which we may never truly know. But I'm speculating.

Still, regardless of the reason behind it, service was uniformly uneven, if such a setting even exists. Twice, we had to ask for more butter. Water was not refilled without our asking. On more than one occasion during the meal, food and wine arrived at the exact same moment, which was really annoying -- especially since we'd asked at the outset for the meal to be 'conversationally paced.' Entrees were placed in front of the wrong diners. Dessert souffles, which had to be ordered well in advance of dessert time, arrived at the table before the individuals in our party who didn't order souffles even had a chance to order their desserts. And one person at our table never even got to order dessert because our server simply forgot to ask him and then walked away too fast for him to do so. At one point, another table's dessert showed up at our table. I'm not sure we would have known had it not been for the 'happy birthday' inscription on the rim of the plate.

Foodwise, things were better but still up and down. Appetizers were excellent, with pates and terrines all being masterfully-created and delicious. Duck consomme, which I loved 12 years ago at LF, was too salty. But the Salad Lyonnaise was very tasty and contained rendered bacon fat in the dressing. The special truffle salad was also quite tasty. Main courses were mixed: Ribeye was cooked perfectly but pretty bland. My veal strip loin was cooked to the right doneness but it was hard and dry, although the calf's liver which accompanied it was great. But both fish/seafood entrees were well-liked by everyone at the table. Souffles were tasty but the passionfruit creme brulee was truly awful -- with its way-too-soft texture and oily finish -- but they took it off the bill, at our request.

Unfortunately, pretense, snobbery and maybe even a bit of fattism are what I will remember most about my first (and possibly only) experience at OTB (which is ominously just one letter away from OCB, which stands for Old Country Buffet). There are so many other great places in town where the cost for a similar but better meal is no higher, or even lower. When I think about some recent meals I've had at Vie for example, this experience at OTB verged on laughable. For me, the 2 best moments of the evening were arriving at the restaurant (before I knew how lousy our experience would be) and leaving it, after which our mood collectively lifted. After spending a few hours at a Weegee's, a very nice lounge, we made a late-night stop at Jimmy's for a few hotdogs. Four of us ate there like Kings for $18.90. But more importantly, we were treated with a sincerity at Jimmy's that was completely absent at OTB. Perhaps the FOH staff at OTB should make a little field trip to the corner of Grand and Pulaski to see how it's done.

=R=

Weegee's Lounge

3659 W. Armitage

Chicago, IL 60647

773 384-0707

Jimmy's Red Hots

4000 W Grand Ave

Chicago, IL 60651

773 384-9513


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  Facing the wall as I was, I had the 'pleasure' of the busboy's genitals being mashed into the back of my right shoulder repeatedly over the course of the evening.  I joked that I didn't know figs were on the menu. 

was there an up charge for the fig course :laugh:


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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