What's New: Three Luxe Lounges | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

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What's New: Three Luxe Lounges

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La Pomme Rouge

108 W. Kinzie

312-245-9555

Success could spoil La Pomme Rouge. Unlike Sugar, which once occupied the same signless space, Jerry Suqi and Jackson Miranda's vision of a belle epoque Parisian salon depends on a romantically decadent ambience rather than a high-energy buzz. Fill it with noisy crowds and no one will fully appreciate the luxurious fabrics, gilt mirrors, Victorian ceiling fixtures, and art nouveau artwork. Worse yet, executive chef Jeffrey Mauro's sophisticated creations will become mere props for the beverages: pricey champagnes, martinis with French twists, classic cocktails. La Pomme Rouge's grand opening was July 24, but late in the "soft opening" month before that, I eagerly took a bite out of the apple and found it surprisingly polished. A caviar napoleon, at $14 the poor person's alternative to osetra or sevruga service ($300 and $200, respectively), was a cute if salty conceit: three mini English muffins mounded with scrambled eggs, crispy pancetta, and American sturgeon caviar, crowned by potato-bacon foam. Silken foie gras torchon surpassed most pates and, being contraband, perfectly fit the temptation theme. The menu doesn't distinguish between appetizers and entrees, so "roasted chicken breast" turned out to be a lovely little salad with watercress and apricots matched with a foie-filled tortellini, while the pan-seared rib eye with melted onions and fingerling potatoes made a deliciously rich meal. Simultaneously sweet and savory, the individual Roquefort-apple quiche works as a cheese course or dessert. I might skip the mousselike gianduia cremeux--but only reluctantly. La Pomme Rouge is closed most Friday nights for private parties. A caveat: if you actually want to read the menu, bring a flashlight. --Anne Spiselman

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Chaise Lounge

1840 W. North

773-342-1840

After my visit to Chaise Lounge I did some exploratory googling and was a little taken aback by all the negative reviews from disgruntled customers. Was it as satisfying as I remembered? Maybe I was there on a good night, but I enjoyed it. The menu, like the decor, has a retro feel that's most obvious in the list of specialty cocktails with names like the Deco and the Wingback, but the dishes hark backward as well, with French-inspired standards like duck confit and consomme receiving the inevitable contemporary twist. Billi-bi, a mussel bisque you don't see much these days, comes with a dab of anisette cream topped with orange gremolata; I couldn't taste much anise, but the bisque did have an unusual kick that added dimension to a soup that's often simply rich. My friend said her frisee with poached egg, caramelized shallots, and bacon was "like breakfast" in a good way, crispy bacon adding a sweet edge. Also sweet, even a little cloying, was the apple cider reduction with chestnuts and raisin relish that accompanied unexpectedly mild slices of roast venison. Our server fumbled a bit when asked whether a side of potato wedges with Parmesan and truffles contained slices of truffle; I'm thinking that for $6 it was probably truffle oil, which often, it's been revealed, contains no truffles at all. The standout of the evening was a special that seemed to show Chaise Lounge is best when it resists the urge to gild the lily: a juicy pork chop special with a Dijon sauce and cauliflower gratin, the plain-jane vegetable ranging in shades from cream to lavender and with an almost smoky flavor. --Heather Kenny

Vice

840 W. Randolph

312-733-3379

I had a minor late-evening epiphany at Vice, Vivo's new next-door sibling: lounges serving sophisticated nibbles are proliferating to circumvent the law. Unlike restaurants, they're not yet subject to the smoking ban, so they allow customers to dine out while indulging in their favorite, er, vice. Nonsmokers should opt for the sidewalk cafe despite its proximity to parked cars, because inside, the stylish room often smells of cigarettes, as well as pulsing with music. The menu dubs Vice an "amuse bouche boutique," but since the small bites come in multiples designed for sharing, that's just a euphemism for small plates. Cases in point: five dainty wonton cups of piquant Asian tuna tartare and an "ahi aji quesadilla," a quartet of mini flour tortillas topped with peppers and tiny slices of seared tuna. That these cost $10 and $12 respectively, unlike the complimentary amuses in posh restaurants, may cause curmudgeons to cry "less for more," but that doesn't negate the virtues of chicken-liver mousse as rich as a foie gras terrine, citrusy black grouper tiradito, and a pair of plump two-ounce Kobe burgers on brioche buns with Camembert, pancetta, arugula, and tomato. Eating with Danish-modern baby silverware was sort of fun, and the spoon fit into the espresso cup of satiny mocha pot de creme. Not so fun: soggy seasonal tart tatin with one slice of overcooked white peach and the Vice Passion, a flute of flat prosecco and passion fruit puree. I don't know anyone who'd spring $355 for osetra caviar service and $605 for Dom Perignon rose here, but I might return for the $10 Kobe burgers (accompanied by crisp fries) and a $5 beer. --Anne Spiselman

Other recent openings

Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge1324 N. Milwaukee | 773-292-0585

The Bluebird Bistro & Wine Bar 1749 N. Damen | 773-486-2473

CJ's Eatery 3839 W. Grand | 773-292-0990

English 444 N. LaSalle | 312-222-6200

Fat Cat 4840 N. Broadway | 773-506-3100

Il Fiasco 5101 N. Clark | 773-769-9700

Nazarlik 1650 W. Belmont | 773-327-5800

Otom 951 W. Fulton | 312-491-5804

Sepia 123 N. Jefferson | 312-441-1920

Shikago 190 S. LaSalle | 312-781-7300

Via Carducci la Sorella 1928 W. Division | 773-252-2246

The Violet Hour 1520 N. Damen | 773-252-1500

For more on restaurants, see our blog The Food Chain at chicagoreader.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by A. Jackson.

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