Duck confit dip, Cochon Volant
If you want to put an instant stamp of credibility on your new French restaurant, you sign on Roland Liccioni.
If there's any single chef in Chicago could be described as a living legend without overstatement it would be the Saigon-born Liccioni, who's had his hand in the some of most important French spots in the suburbs and city for decades (Carlos, Le Francais, Le Lan, Old Town Brasserrie). He's in his second run at the landmark Les Nomades
, but when the group that opened the Loop Hyatt decided to go French with their ground-floor anchor, they brought in Liccioni, who brought along his signature chicken liver mousse and paté de campagne.
There are also "croque madame eggrolls" which seem rather un-Liccioni like, but then again this is a hotel restaurant, so there will be pandering. And that also means that Cochon Volant, aka "Flying Pig," serves three squares: Benedicts, omelettes, pancakes, and waffles for petit déjeuner
; at dinner you'll have steak frites, dry-aged beef, and other French classics such as . . . um, orecchiette with pork ragu?
But it's lunchtime when the place really seems to swing, packing in the Loop's captive, desperate hordes for sandwiches and salads. There's a collection of French dips: prime beef, ham and cheese, pastrami, and rotisserie chicken. One late morning I snuck up to the bar for a duck confit French dip. It's fine. The bread is crackly and goes down easy when dipped in the jus. The meat is a touch dry, strangely, but it's somewhat ameliorated by blue cheese, which melts and moistens things up. The weirdest thing about this sandwich is the "cherry confit" that's supposed to dress it. The cherries aren't in some semiliquid cooked-down state—they're just dried fruits inharmoniously scattered on top. The fries? Thicker than conventional frites, but they're serviceable dipped in garlic aioli.
Maybe I wouldn't be so picky about this sandwich if it weren't for the grating uptempo EDM the joint was blasting to ensure everyone a chill lunch break. I gobbled the thing down just so I could get the hell out. I understand the impulse to turn tables, but it's pretty much a turnoff.
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Cochon Volant, 100 W. Monroe, 312-754-656o, cochonvolantchicago.com