Hours: Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday; dinner: Tuesday-Sunday
Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 11
Chef-owner Joël Kazouini serves French fare in Little Italy.
Like a foreign legion outpost, Chez Joel waves the French tricolor over Little Italys Taylor Street with pride. In a lovely but cramped space evocative of a cozy country cafe, chef-owner Joël Kazouini delivers a classic bistro menu with flair. Starters include French onion soup oozing with cheese, moules marinieres, duck and chicken paté with toast points, escargots swimming in garlic butter, and a coriander-perfumed shrimp stew from Provence. Most French regions are represented on the very reasonable wine list, with many selections available by the glass. Half a dozen salads are offered on the regular menu, but the pick is a special of green and white asparagus on a bed of greens sprinkled with a house vinaigrette. Be sure to order pommes frites with any entree; they are among the best in Chicago and go well with the perfectly prepared lamb shank au jus with wild mushrooms or the ten-ounce sirloin, served au poivre or with homemade garlic butter. Perhaps as a paean to the neighborhood, the Moroccan-born Kazouini offers spaghetti aux fruits de mer, a filling dish of mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops in a tomato broth over pasta. Fresh fish and other specials change several times a week. Desserts include a calvados apple tart with marzipan, a custardy lemon tart, sorbet, and a chocolate sponge cake in rum with vanilla mousse. Go early, before the noise, and dont forget the frites.
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