Saturday, March 10, 2007

Le Lan and Thursday Night Mischief

Brian took me to Le Lan on Thursday night. Coincidentally, the Tribune ran a glowing review of them that same day. I am glad we went when we did, as I suspect it will be difficult to get a table there any time soon.

Le Lan started in 2005 as an upscale, but still inviting French-Vietnamese restaurant. They were names Best New Restaurant by Chicago Magazine that year. The new executive chef, Bill Kim, seems to be focusing a lot more on Asian flavors than his predecessor.

The space has a lot of exposed brick and each table is adorned with an orchid (Le Lan in Vietnamese). One wall displays a large mural of a dragon. At one point, Brian told me they were playing an Air song, but the music was so low I couldn't even tell. They preparing to open the upstairs to accommodate more guests. They're going to need the space.

Each Tuesday Le Lan serves a three course prix fixe for $38. They will begin offering the same deal Monday through Thursday from 5:00 to 6:00 to attract a pretheater crowd. It makes me wish I worked downtown so I could take advantage.

We really enjoyed our meals. Here's what we had, thanks to wonderful recommendations by our server.

Amuse Bouche - miniature steamed bao buns with hoisin sauce

Thai Young Coconut Soup - Brian had this. I didn't try it, so I don't remember exactly what was in it, but I remember him saying it was exactly what he wanted.
Beef Carpaccio with Scallion Pancakes - It was sliced thinner than paper thin, and topped with jicama, toasted Panko, salmon roe, and microgreens. The plate was gorgeous. It looked like the red wine reduction had been painted down the side of the plate, which may have been the case.
Cava Champagne

Banana Leaf Wrapped Blue Nose Grouper - Brian's entree. A large piece of fish came atop a mound of Napa cabbage, fingerling potatoes, and red Thai curry sauce. The fish was very delicate and mild. Paired with a dry German reisling. It was good, but...

Tea-Smoked Duck Breast - My entree. Slices of duck breast, crispy outside and very pink inside, served with savory rosemary bread pudding, baby bok choy, and kumquat-star anise reduction. The flavor combination was sweet and unlike anything I have had before. It was perfect. Paired with a rich French malbec.

Pomegranate Gelee with Chocolate Almond Terrine - Brian's dessert. Immediately before it got to the table, I told Brian that I don't particularly enjoy gelees because of the crazy amount of gelatin in them. That may have been poor dining etiquette on my part...he didn't particularly enjoy it after hearing my dissertation. But he did like the terrine, especially with the snap from fresh pomegranate seeds.

Quince Souffle with Quince Caramel Creme Anglaise - My dessert. (Sidenote: OFF THE WAGON.) The real deal, wait 15 minutes for it to bake, if you want this one. The server broke the puffed brown top table side and poured in the creme anglaise, which I would have drank straight from the little carafe if they'd let me. It was very good, even if the texture at the bottom of the ramekin got a little too close to scrambled eggs. I thought that the quince flavor could have been a bit more pronounced, but it was delish in it's own right.

It was a very nice, refined dinner. And then we went back to our normal selves.

We met up with Diana and Harrison, and the stupidity that ensued need not be documented. A few finer points:
* Di and I dancing like crazy to Billy Idol, when no one else in the bar was even paying attention to the music, let alone dancing
* Complete recitation of Paul Revere by Beastie Boys in Harrison's Volvo
* Actually falling in the middle of the street in front of Sofitel to get away from Brian, who was tickling me to try to make me pee in my pants.

Work was a blur yesterday. I love my friends, but you all make me tired.

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