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And that's why you never procrastinate (Bonsoiree)

And that's why you never procrastinate (Bonsoiree)
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  • And that's why you never procrastinate (Bonsoiree)

    Post #1 - February 25th, 2007, 9:01 pm
    Post #1 - February 25th, 2007, 9:01 pm Post #1 - February 25th, 2007, 9:01 pm
    I've been meaning to write about Bonsoiree for a few weeks now since there hadn't been any mention of it on LTH...but my laziness always got the better of me. Now, instead of my words inspiring a few people to check the place out, the community's first taste of the place is a bad one. Awesome.

    The good news is that it will only take a few bites of the food to get rid of that bad taste, so I hope some of you will still try it.

    I've had two great meals myself at Bonsoiree. The first was a lunch in late November, not long after they'd opened. The prosciutto sandwich was just about perfect- crusty bread, very flavorful components...I was just wishing for an additional bite or two. My friend had the grilled chicken & portabella mushroom sandwich which was also quite good, though I definitely preferred the prosciutto. Sandwiches were about $9 each, which made for a slightly pricey lunch, but at least they're served with some tasty potato chips.

    At any rate, we were pleased enough to sign up for the "underground" restaurant email list. It's not really all that underground, but on Saturday nights they serve a 5-course prix fixe dinner (with choice between 2 different entrees- one usually vegetarian). People on the email list are sent the menus a few weeks in advance, and if the menu appeals to you, you register online to attend it. These dinners are usually in the neighborhood of $40-50/person...and a $10/person deposit is required when making the reservation. The whole thing used by be evite (and I think that resulted in many cancellations/no-shows hence the deposit), but is now handled right on their website. These dinners are BYOB (no corkage fee), and also include complimentary non-alcoholic drinks (sparkling water, Grown-Up Soda, Cricket Cola, etc.). You can see a few current menus on the website.

    It took us a while to make it to one of these underground dinners due to illness, the holidays, outstanding Saturday night plans, or just one of us not really feeling the menu. We finally attended on February 3rd, where the menu was 'A Tribute To Beer.'

    Of course, I've since deleted the menu from my inbox...so I can't give you exact descriptions of the menu items. The first course consisted of a few anchovies and roasted fuji apple slices in a martini glass filed with lentils. It worked pretty well, the base of the lentils tempering both the saltiness of the anchovies and the sweetness of the apples. The second course was an absolutely delicious aged Irish cheddar & ale soup- I'm not much of a soup person, but the rich creaminess and the strong cheese taste of this won me over quickly. The third was a salad- I remember cranberries, a tasty vinaigrette of some sort, and tiny pieces of bacon- I sifted through the salad to find the flecks of savory gold, trying to get one in every bite. The entrees, not surprisingly, were the real stars of the menu. I had Guinness-braised lamb shank that was remarkably tender & succulent (and it ranks among the best lamb I've ever eaten). My friend went with the other option- a Belgian ale-brined chicken breast, again very juicy & flavorful. Both were absolutely delicious and served with a waffle like fried potato concoction of some kind and some veggies. The dessert was a sponge cake with a root beer reduction- we both felt this was the 'miss' of the night, the cake was too dry and we couldn't find much root beer taste left in the reduction. Actually, the presence of beer in the other courses was a bit difficult to discern too...but given how excellent the food tasted, I really didn't mind. Every course was handsomely presented. Service was friendly & attentive throughout the evening, bringing/clearing the dishes, filling up water glasses, and also providing the complimentary non-alcoholic drinks. The chef even came out to speak with us and the other tables before dessert, getting our thoughts on the food to that point and discussing some of the inspiration for this particular menu.

    The online deposit was applied towards our meal's total without issue, and the overall total cost (with tax/tip/deposit) ended up being $101. Obviously, being BYOB helps, but I think the underground restaurant dinners are a great value given the quality of the meal. The experience reminded me of Sweets & Savories, although to be honest, thats the only other place where I've had a similar multi-course meal.

    The restaurant itself is quite small, with room for 30 people at most. Many of the tables are right next to the windows, and the night we attended was one of those single-digit temperature ones, so it was a bit chilly in there. The deli case dominates the room as it is front and center when you walk in. There's a small grocery section with items such as tea, coffee, chips, and chocolate.

    Oh, and an added little bonus: Bonsoiree is in the Rewards Network program (although the credit didn't occur automatically after my last meal and I had to call/fax the Rewards Network people).

    I do hope those of you who were previously considering patronizing Bonsoiree still do so...because there really is a lot to like about this place.

    Bonsoiree
    2728 W. Armitage
    Chicago, IL 60647
    773-486-7511
    "Ah, lamentably no, my gastronomic rapacity knows no satiety" - Homer J. Simpson
  • Post #2 - February 27th, 2007, 8:26 am
    Post #2 - February 27th, 2007, 8:26 am Post #2 - February 27th, 2007, 8:26 am
    Clogoodie pretty much summed up the experience I had with the prix fixe dinner on a Saturday night a few months ago. The food was very tasty -- Shin and Kurt really can cook and provide a good value for the dollar. Fish was perfectly prepared, salt was used with discretion, and even the fusion touches were not over the top or ill conceived. Shin uses his knowledge of Japanese cuisine to his advantage with a light hand. The food is not overly clever or intellectualized. This is not the second coming of molecular gastronomy or earthy home cooking, but the midway point on the culinary evolutionary scale.

    Since my experience was a few months ago, I can't speak to each dish (a la posts on Manresa and Tetsuya's).

    I was disappointed by the Chicagoandi post and similar posts on Yelp mostly because Bonsoiree deserves a chance and shouldn't be dismissed because of a some overzealous friends (but as I mentioned on the other thread, I don't like shilling either, and it made me, a happy customer, think twice). If you don't give it a try, you may miss out on tasting some very well prepared food in a modest setting that isn't much like anything else in Chicago.
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #3 - March 26th, 2007, 2:32 pm
    Post #3 - March 26th, 2007, 2:32 pm Post #3 - March 26th, 2007, 2:32 pm
    I signed up for email notifications and received my first invitation yesterday. I have reservations for this Saturday, March 31 for dinner at Bonsoiree. I am not sure whether this was mentioned in other threads, but note that there was a down payment of $10 per person charged, which is refundable if cancelled 24 hours or more in advance.
    JiLS
  • Post #4 - April 1st, 2007, 5:50 pm
    Post #4 - April 1st, 2007, 5:50 pm Post #4 - April 1st, 2007, 5:50 pm
    Dinner this Saturday (March 31) at Bonsoiree was a very pleasant experience, from the moment we entered the small but elegantly put-together dining room, to the last bite of our dessert. Service was slow - perhaps slower than it had to be, as our five course meal took almost 2.5 hours, and some courses were brought out at an agonizingly slow pace (although we were both very tired and very hungry; YMMV). In the end, and with each dish, we were highly satisfied.*

    As a preliminary note, the Saturday "underground" dinners are five courses, prix fixe. However, Bonsoiree is open for dinner regularly, and they regularly offer a 7-course tasting menu at $65 or thereabouts. The "underground" meals are smaller and cheaper, but you don't have to be on their mailing list to come in for menus like this one. And, as noted by others above, Bonsoiree is strictly BYOB.**

    Our menu centered on fish, and Bonsoiree certainly had procured fine examples of the pescatory persuasion for our delectation this Saturday. Openers consisted of an amuse, a wedding-reception style miniature quiche filled with minced shrimp and topped with a startling but tasty dose of herbs (sage and chives, I think).

    The first real course was a martini glass filled with exquisitely good tuna (described on the menu [with my comments] as "Kona kampachi tartare, scallion bias [that meant scallions cut at an oblique angle, not, as I had hoped, a moto-style laser printed screed of green onion bigotry], and chili-sesame wonton [a hot, sweet and crispy wafer I'd liked to have had a bowlful at that point]"). The fish was impressive, as was the mix of spice, sweet and savory (hmm...that's an interestingly apposite comparison, that others have made).

    Next up, manila clams floating in a neutral base of vegetable broth and embraced by slippery rice noodles. These were the type of clams I never expect to find in Chicago: fresh, light in flavor, tender and without the "stale clam funk" that some may like, I abhor, and all agree is concomitant with clams served in Chicago. Most places, at least, and not at Bonsoiree this Saturday. The broth was almost without flavor, a good choice, as it absorbed and carried through the flavor of the delicate little morsels of bivalve. My only complaint was that the soup was served a bit cooler than I prefer, but as I observed, this too may have been intentional, as this was a soup you had to reach into to pull out the clams, so too hot may have created its own set of problems.

    Third course was a salad of mizuna in vinaigrette, served with tiny bay scallops (perfect flavor, wish they'd serve a dozen more of them) and pickled radish slices that were funky and tasty, but maybe a bit too much of a match for the flavor profile of a scallop. Am I the only person who thinks restaurants are getting too creative when they overwhelm the delicate sweet scallop with hot peppers, sugary syrups, aromatic pickled vegetables and the like? In any event, the scallops were show stealers in this dish, and I appreciated getting some roughage.

    Main course was sake-glazed wild striped bass [skin-on, so you saw the stripes!], sauteed shiimeiji mushrooms [almost too cute to eat, but delicious], cipollini onions and roasted baby carrot. A bit too much butter coated all of it (although that did make the carrots palatable to Mrs. JiLS, who claimed never to have eaten a cooked carrot she liked before this meal). The bass was the star on this plate, extremely fresh, moist, tender and artfully prepared. I would go back for this one any day.

    Dessert consisted of a vanilla cake genoise, surrounded by four dollops of green-tea enhanced creme Anglaise and "abstract sugars," which in this instance meant a little row-boat oar shaped sugar paddle, which was a bit hard to eat (lots of sucking and resisting the urge to bite), but rewarded with a strong and seductive smoky dark caramel flavor. The cake itself was one of the better desserts I've eaten in a while, being a horizontally-bisected cylinder of firm, moist sponge cake, filled with the afore-alluded to gingery sauce and being, essentially, a grown up's Twinkie. I am all for Twinkies of any sort; this one is now my favorite.

    The meal was finished with a very good cup of coffee (I expected a little better from a place that is, during the day, a coffee shop ... but I'm not complaining, it was plenty good with the Twinkie).

    Total bill, with tax and tip, was $126. That's not a huge bargain, but it's certainly a fair price for what we had and the care with which it was prepared and served. Bonsoiree is offering another, solid option for imaginative dinners, made from high-quality ingredients in an informal environment. Very much like Sweets & Savories, or Lula not trying to compete with Schwa; a nice addition to the mix. And their silverware is better than Lula's, too.



    * There was a brief discussion with one of the chefs on our entry, begun when he asked how we had heard of Bonsoiree's "underground" dinners. I answered truthfully and candidly, referring in some detail to the "little exchange" with the enthusiastic friend of the restaurant that got Bonsoiree off on the wrong foot with some of the folks here at LTHForum. He took it well, and mentioned that other self-identified LTHers had been and were scheduled to come to future dinners.

    ** Shockingly, Mrs. JiLS and I decided to go for an alcohol-free dinner at Bonsoiree, availing ourselves of various "Grown Up Sodas" (the pomegranate, which is a fantastic and complex soda, if that word can be used regarding a soda). The irony of that decision became apparent when, 10 minutes after we were seated, who should arrive for dinner but the proprietress of my local wine and gourmet shop, Provenance. Guess who was struck comical when his table appeared devoid of wine. Like seeing your marriage counselor at the Admiral, we both just smiled and tried to ignore each other's presence.
    JiLS
  • Post #5 - April 1st, 2007, 6:23 pm
    Post #5 - April 1st, 2007, 6:23 pm Post #5 - April 1st, 2007, 6:23 pm
    I just wanted to echo Jim's praise of last night's "underground dinner". My 3 companions and I thoroughly enjoyed just about every morsel of the meal, highlighted by the extremely addictive wonton Jim mentioned, the simple but robustly flavored vegetable consomme in which the clams floated, and the "twinkie", which was airy, not too sweet, and laden with visible black specks from fresh vanilla beans. Delicious.

    We actually commented that for a five course meal, we wished the pace had been a little slower :) - to each his own. I bet it had something to do with the fact that we struggled to find time to enjoy the full bottle of wine per person we had brought, while Jim's less time consuming struggle was to avoid eye contact with his purveyor. Overall we found the service very accommodating, although the owners/ staff did seem a bit overly taxed at certain times. While they were clearly hustling their butts off, I think they were just one person short of being able to effectively keep patrons' wine and water glasses full throughout the evening. A very minor quibble given the excellent experience we had.
  • Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:59 am
    Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:59 am Post #6 - April 2nd, 2007, 11:59 am
    that meant scallions cut at an oblique angle, not, as I had hoped, a moto-style laser printed screed of green onion bigotry


    and

    Like seeing your marriage counselor at the Admiral, we both just smiled and tried to ignore each other's presence.


    :lol: :lol: Fine form, Jim and great to get the comparative report on the flatware, too.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #7 - April 2nd, 2007, 6:48 pm
    Post #7 - April 2nd, 2007, 6:48 pm Post #7 - April 2nd, 2007, 6:48 pm
    As a self-correction, I note that the fish in the first course, Kona Kampachi, is anything BUT a tuna, as I described it. Well, it was still very tasty, whatever it may have been.
    JiLS
  • Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 10:13 pm
    Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 10:13 pm Post #8 - April 3rd, 2007, 10:13 pm
    like JinLS, i'm unaffil'd w/ the restaurant. obviously we're not schilling.

    we had a great brunch 2 wks back but i wasn't convinced. until today.

    our $20(++) prix-fixe (descriptions my own):

    apps:
    asparagus salad
    caesar salad w/ anchovies + portabella mushroom
    seafood "chowder"
    lamb & pesto in pastry
    lentil on corn cake

    mains:
    braised short ribs w/ bok choy and soy reduction
    grand marnier salmon w/ potato cake
    hawaiian moonfish in beurre blanc w/ taro
    applewood bacon wrapped pork tenderloins
    rack o lamb

    i don't have much to add except Kurt + team (Shin + Luke) amazed me: no front of the house, no bussers, no more than 2 dozen eaters. BYOB, no corkage. it's like Schwa taken down a notch, except... they answer their phone calls.

    pictures speak a few hundred words:

    lamb hot pocket w/ Chinese chili paste:
    Image

    lentils on corn cake:
    Image

    braised short ribs:
    Image

    grand marnier salmon w/ potato cake:
    Image

    bacon wrapped tenderloins
    Image

    rack o lamb:
    Image

    the best of the desserts:
    Image

    prix-fixe Tues-Friday
    "underground" din din Sat's.

    We were amongst a 10-top. Dinner took 2+ hrs as the kitchen just can't handle this kind of volume, but it didn't matter. Don't know where else this exists in the city. If someone has comparable suggestions, I'm all ears.
  • Post #9 - April 9th, 2007, 7:12 pm
    Post #9 - April 9th, 2007, 7:12 pm Post #9 - April 9th, 2007, 7:12 pm
    We took Jim in Logan Square's April 7 reservation, and the dinner was nice, though we (and everyone else) had an ongoing issue of silverware being taken away and not replenished. I think that was because the chef was in the front of the house, so he's not the best at that job ;) There were only 18 covers, probably due to Easter.

    (menu at http://www.bon-soiree.com/underground/apr7.htm)

    Dinner started off with an amuse of fried lobster/mushroom dumpling.

    Our favorite course was the duck confit on a corn cake, but overall it was a well thought out menu, and seemed to work well as an entire meal. They had good coffee, too.

    It did take a LOOOOOONG time for the whole meal, which started at 8 and ended after 11 - we had had a long day and were practically falling asleep at the table.

    We'll go back on a weeknight and try to start a bit earlier.
    Leek

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  • Post #10 - April 9th, 2007, 8:06 pm
    Post #10 - April 9th, 2007, 8:06 pm Post #10 - April 9th, 2007, 8:06 pm
    TonyC wrote:our $20(++) prix-fixe (descriptions my own):

    apps:
    asparagus salad
    caesar salad w/ anchovies + portabella mushroom
    seafood "chowder"
    lamb & pesto in pastry
    lentil on corn cake

    mains:
    braised short ribs w/ bok choy and soy reduction
    grand marnier salmon w/ potato cake
    hawaiian moonfish in beurre blanc w/ taro
    applewood bacon wrapped pork tenderloins
    rack o lamb

    i don't have much to add except Kurt + team (Shin + Luke) amazed me: no front of the house, no bussers, no more than 2 dozen eaters. BYOB, no corkage. it's like Schwa taken down a notch, except... they answer their phone calls.

    =========================================================
    prix-fixe Tues-Friday
    "underground" din din Sat's.

    We were amongst a 10-top. Dinner took 2+ hrs as the kitchen just can't handle this kind of volume, but it didn't matter. Don't know where else this exists in the city. If someone has comparable suggestions, I'm all ears.


    Am I reading this right? Those beautiful dishes that you described and showed in the photos are being offered at Bonsoiree on a $20 prix fixe on Tuesday thru Friday evenings?
    ...Pedro
  • Post #11 - April 9th, 2007, 9:31 pm
    Post #11 - April 9th, 2007, 9:31 pm Post #11 - April 9th, 2007, 9:31 pm
    YoYoPedro wrote:Am I reading this right? Those beautiful dishes that you described and showed in the photos are being offered at Bonsoiree on a $20 prix fixe on Tuesday thru Friday evenings?

    well..... you know.... it's a bit of a stretch...

    fuller disclosure:
    premium apps/plates (moonfish, lamb, etc.) were $3/per course more. premium desserts were $2(?) more. the prix-fixe menu isn't deep by any means so it's easy to dip into the ++$ items. in theory, you can end up w/ a full blown $28/pp prix-fixe. but STILL! no front of the house. no busboys. no corkage. no line cooks?

    i don't care if their "friend" schilled. i really enjoy this place despite the fact that they DO advertise on yelp, despite the fact that, without wine, i woulda gone over to Los Comales, popped in a coupla tamales and then returned in time for the entree.
  • Post #12 - April 19th, 2007, 10:26 am
    Post #12 - April 19th, 2007, 10:26 am Post #12 - April 19th, 2007, 10:26 am
    Hubby and I had a fantastic meal here last night. We got there at 6 and finished around 7 or so, so the meal certainly didn't drag on. We BYOB'd and everything was lovely.
    We were offered a sip of the soup du jour which was sweet pea and it was fantastic.

    Hubby ordered the soup and the salad for $6 extra as the only menu they had last night was the $20 three course.
    Sweet pea soup was drizzled with paprika infused oil and it was delicious. The caesar salad was also very good and featured white anchovies.
    I had the spicy lentils on corn cake, and it could have been a bit spicer for me. I also could have eaten about five more of them, it was good.

    I had the braised beef short rib with a cabernet reduction and spring vegetables which was outstanding. The two huge pieces of meat were boneless and had a nice I guess the word would be crust on them. They were obviously browned first and the meat was so tender and juicy, really nicely done.

    Hubby had the herb grilled rack of lamb, sweet roasted fingerling potatoes, and a cherry lamb jus. I had a taste of the potatoes and sauce, as I am not a lamb fan, and it was outstanding. The chops were cooked perfectly as ordered.

    Dessert was bananna bread pudding and it was a perfect end to the meal given the fact I don't ever order dessert. Hubby had a flourless chocolate cake that sous chef/server Luke talked him into as he wasn't going to have anything. The cake was anything but cake, it was more of a mousse, and hubby ate every bite of it.

    Total bill $56. The lamb, salad and dessert were all upgrades, but no complaints for us.

    The only thing we didn't like was the location in the middle of the block with nothing really around it and it was hard to get a cab when we left. Perhaps we should have had them call one for us. I really hope this place makes it as there were not that many people in there, but we did dine early. I am waiting to accept an invitation to the underground but it always seems to have lamb as the feature, which hubby would love as he would get two servings.
  • Post #13 - April 23rd, 2007, 8:49 pm
    Post #13 - April 23rd, 2007, 8:49 pm Post #13 - April 23rd, 2007, 8:49 pm
    My husband and I dined at Bonsoiree this past Friday night. It was wonderful! We went for the $20 pre-fixe that is served tues. - fri. nights and brought a bottle of wine along. If you look at their spring menu online, anything with an asterisk next to it is an additional $4, except for the lamb which is an additional $9. We got there around 7pm, had a reservation for 7:30, but just couldn't wait because we were starving. There were about three tables full of people when we got there and was almost full by the time we left. Also, there was plenty of street parking along Armitage.
    Menu:
    http://www.bon-soiree.com/cafe/dinnermenu.htm

    For our appetizers, I chose the spicy red lentils on top of a corn cake, he chose the asparagus/mushroom salad. Both were excellent. The corn cake app. was rather small so I wasn't as willing to share more than a bite because I really, really enjoyed it. Lentils were barely spicy which was good because I can't handle spice, I got it mostly for the corn cake, it just sounded good. I helped myself to the generous portion of asparagus salad, the asaparagus were HUGE and crispy and cut into nice bite-sized chunks. The mushrooms and dressing went perfectly with it.

    For entrees, I ordered the Hawaiian moonfish (aka Opa), he ordered the rack of lamb. The moonfish was excellent and just what I was looking for. It has the consistency of tuna but its really moist and nice. The Ponzu sauce was so good that I soaked up every last drop of it. The mango salsa on top was the perfect accompaniment to the flavors. I shared my dish this time as there was a good portion, but can't say I shared too much of the sauce! The rack of lamb was also great. It came with a HUGE pile of fingerling potatoes which I couldn't keep my fork out of. The accompanying sauce was nice and thick and was perfect with both the potatoes and lamb (and I really don't like lamb at all, I'm *trying* to acquire a taste for it as my husband is from Lebanon and prefers it over beef and orders it almost anywhere its on a menu).

    For desert, I chose the house banana bread pudding, or for an extra charge of $4 they had a few other deserts -- some pastries from Vanille (which personally I'd rather just go to Vanille for) or a house-made ice cream. Friday nights flavor was strawberry, kinda boring, but my husband loves strawberry ice cream so he ordered that. We were told they had a lavender flavored one the night before, I would have liked that -- sounds more interesting at least. The bread pudding was amazing and had the perfect consistency with lots of moist banana. It came with a white chocolate creme anglaise on the side that I could have drank had they given me a larger portion. The ice cream was good, nothing special though, however my husband really enjoyed it, it came with a couple wafer-like house-made sugar cookies. We were told they recently bought the ice cream maker so they have been doing a lot of experimenting with it, so hopefully there will be some good flavors to come.

    Overall, it was a great dining experience and we can't wait to go back - I'm glad we live so close! All the courses came out in a very timely manner, not too slow, but not too fast, which made it a really relaxing Friday night. We'll definitely be trying brunch there soon. Our total bill for dinner that night came to $60 - not bad for all that food, especially since it was all wonderful! If I have one complaint, it's that we brought our own wine glasses (we're not snobs, but sometimes wine just tastes better out of your own glasses, especially since we brought along a good bottle of wine), and the woman who was helping out in the dining room took our glasses, I assumed she was rinsing them for us or something, but never returned them. I only say that because they are visually nothing like the wine glasses they have there so I figured she would recognize that. I was getting nervous because they are pretty fragile, and a little pricey, and was afraid they would break. It took about ten or so minutes before we were able to flag our waiter down to tell him about the mix up, but luckily they were sitting right behind the counter in the bus pan.

    I hope you all try this restaurant out. At the $20 (and then some) pre-fixe its WELL worth its price!
    Last edited by durzia on April 24th, 2007, 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #14 - April 24th, 2007, 7:58 am
    Post #14 - April 24th, 2007, 7:58 am Post #14 - April 24th, 2007, 7:58 am
    on a sad note : per Luke, Bonsoiree is now closed for lunch except for "corporate" bento boxes/catering events. they simply did not have the volume to sustain lunch operations :( :(
  • Post #15 - May 21st, 2007, 1:59 pm
    Post #15 - May 21st, 2007, 1:59 pm Post #15 - May 21st, 2007, 1:59 pm
    This will probably be my last post for this restaurant as I am going to become a regular. I had the best brunch Saturday. Sat outside in the garden and it was lovely. If I didn't have things to do that day, I would have brought a bottle of champagne. What I like about this place is that there are no crowds, no wait. A near impossibility in this area.
    Coffee was strong, and smooth, and filled at all times. I had the wild mushroom and truffle omelet, manchego hash browns, side of crispy bacon and brioche. Very nicely done and the potatoes were perfectly seasoned and crispy. I could have had those and some bacon and been fine.
    My husband out ordered me. He had the filet mignon benedict, and fingerling potatoes. The sauce was a standout with the spinach. He actually ordered a side of the manchego hash browns, as the fingerlings weren't on the written description on the menu, it would have been nice if the waiter pointed out that he was ordering two potatoes, but that was ok, as we got to sample both.
    Really not much to complain about other than I would have liked a more substantial egg option. They had three omelet options, two veggie and one fish, something with meat and cheese would have been nice.
    I am a dark bread eater. I would have liked a choice of toasts instead of just brioche.
  • Post #16 - June 3rd, 2007, 11:30 pm
    Post #16 - June 3rd, 2007, 11:30 pm Post #16 - June 3rd, 2007, 11:30 pm
    Hello all,

    After hearing about Bonsoiree here on this site, my wife and I decided to try it out on Friday night. Overall, it was a great evening. I spent some time talking with Kurt Chenier, co-owner and our server for the evening, and he's really into the food and ingredients. We did the 7-course tasting menu, telling Kurt "show us what you've got." Sorry that I have no pictures, but here's some descriptions.

    Course 1 - Tuna Tartare: Finely diced red onion mixed in with the tuna in a tartare style, plated with wasabi-infused roe. Only a little spicy and nothing that lingers. Went very well with the Loire sparkling wine I had brought.

    Course 2 - Asparagus and oyster mushroom salad: Served with a vanilla guava vinagrette with pickled radishes shaved over the top, the flavors all worked perfectly together. The radishes and the vinagrette balanced out perfectly. The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and showed none of the rubberiness that oyster mushrooms can have if sauteed incorrectly.

    Course 3 - Artichoke-Zucini soup: Full of flavor, with a creamy mouthfeel. Kurt explained that there were no starch fillers in the soup, just the main ingredients.

    Course 4 - Spicy lentils over corncake: Sauced with toasted paprika oil and garnished with lime, this was an excellent flavor combination. It actually wasn't spicy at all, which was fine for me to prevent the GERD from firing up but might be disappointing to others.

    Course 5 - Austrailian Barramundi: This wasn't on the menu, but Kurt said they had gotten a few pieces in for using with the tasting menu. Sauced with a ponzu beurre blanc that made me almost lick the plate. The saltiness of the reduced ponzu with the smooth mouthfeel of the beurre blanc was incredible. There was also a mango relish that mixed well with the sauce and the fatty fish.

    Course 6 - Lamb loin: This was served with fingerling potatoes and lamb jus reduction. It was served perfectly medium rare. It mated fabulously with the 2003 Spring Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc I had brought for the evening.

    Course 7 - 3 desserts: The three desserts were put between the two of us to share, and there was more than enough for the two of us. The banana bread pudding with white chocolate creme anglais was great, and this coming from someone who would never think to eat bread pudding. There was a dark chocolate mousse that was dense and let you sink your teeth into it, which is the way I like it. The third dessert was a pepper ice cream that was executed well but missed the mark in flavor because it wasn't served on something to kick up the sweetness because the ice cream lacked it.

    This restaurant serves serious food and it deserves serious wine to go with it. I love that this is a BYOB place because I can bring stuff from my own cellar and know that the food will match the quality of the wine.

    The only thing I think is a downside for the place is that there's a lot of neighborhood people going in to eat the $20 three course menu (a great value) and bringing the $6 white zinfindel they just bought at Osco to drink. I think these guys might want to raise the price a bit to get more serious wine folks in there and prevent the very small number of tables being consumed by the locals who aren't going to take them any higher in the restaurant scene. Sorry if that sounds wine snobby, as it's not meant to be.

    All the best,
    John
  • Post #17 - June 4th, 2007, 7:54 am
    Post #17 - June 4th, 2007, 7:54 am Post #17 - June 4th, 2007, 7:54 am
    John Danza wrote:The only thing I think is a downside for the place is that there's a lot of neighborhood people going in to eat the $20 three course menu (a great value) and bringing the $6 white zinfindel they just bought at Osco to drink. I think these guys might want to raise the price a bit to get more serious wine folks in there and prevent the very small number of tables being consumed by the locals who aren't going to take them any higher in the restaurant scene. Sorry if that sounds wine snobby, as it's not meant to be.


    If they keep the prices low these "locals" will be coming more often, maybe even during the week. If the prices are too high they'll become a weekend-only destination place and go out of business. Who cares what wine they bring, if they bring any at all?

    I think I'm a local, it's walking (a long walk, but walkable) and I'm far more likely to go there frequently if the costs are lower.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #18 - June 4th, 2007, 11:06 am
    Post #18 - June 4th, 2007, 11:06 am Post #18 - June 4th, 2007, 11:06 am
    John Danza wrote:
    The only thing I think is a downside for the place is that there's a lot of neighborhood people going in to eat the $20 three course menu (a great value) and bringing the $6 white zinfindel they just bought at Osco to drink. I think these guys might want to raise the price a bit to get more serious wine folks in there and prevent the very small number of tables being consumed by the locals who aren't going to take them any higher in the restaurant scene.


    Call me a bit offended and confused by this (I live 2.5 blocks away and am not much of a wine person), but how do wine snobs from Naperville bring a BYOB any higher in the restaurant scene than locals with $6 bottles of zin? This is a restaurant not a wine bar, correct? Not sure how full tables can hurt a place...
    Jamie
  • Post #19 - June 4th, 2007, 11:14 am
    Post #19 - June 4th, 2007, 11:14 am Post #19 - June 4th, 2007, 11:14 am
    John Danza wrote:I think these guys might want to raise the price a bit to get more serious wine folks in there and prevent the very small number of tables being consumed by the locals who aren't going to take them any higher in the restaurant scene.


    I don't understand... does this mean that you have to be high income and live in the suburbs to be a "serious wine" person, or does it mean that "serious wine" people won't go to a great restaurant unless it also costs a lot?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #20 - June 4th, 2007, 11:19 am
    Post #20 - June 4th, 2007, 11:19 am Post #20 - June 4th, 2007, 11:19 am
    When Sweets & Savories was a true BYO, I ate there a number of times and saw other tables with bottles of Yellowtail sitting on them. Never did it lower my opinion of the restaurant or cause me to think, "Hey, they really need to up prices to bring in some classier people". I don't believe the restaurant's reputation has suffered as a result.

    What a silly statement. I hope clarification is coming.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #21 - June 4th, 2007, 11:33 am
    Post #21 - June 4th, 2007, 11:33 am Post #21 - June 4th, 2007, 11:33 am
    John Danza wrote:Sorry if that sounds wine snobby, as it's not meant to be.

    Not wine snobby, just snobby in general.

    Your statement re neighborhood people, $20 prix fixe and serious wine folks is confusing, though if meant as written I amend to disconcerting. I'm hoping for, as Jesteinf mentioned, clarification.

    Regards,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #22 - June 4th, 2007, 12:15 pm
    Post #22 - June 4th, 2007, 12:15 pm Post #22 - June 4th, 2007, 12:15 pm
    Yeah, exactly whom am I chasing away with my $6.99 bottle of Gascogne? Are we locals-slash-cheapskates somehow able to take away the reservation making abilities of non-locals? Do they not have phones in the suburbs??
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #23 - June 4th, 2007, 1:06 pm
    Post #23 - June 4th, 2007, 1:06 pm Post #23 - June 4th, 2007, 1:06 pm
    John Danza wrote:The only thing I think is a downside for the place is that there's a lot of neighborhood people going in to eat the $20 three course menu (a great value) and bringing the $6 white zinfindel they just bought at Osco to drink.


    I agree, Mr. Danza. Them's townies o'er yonder Logan Square can't tell their white zin from the moonshine . . . :wink:
  • Post #24 - June 4th, 2007, 3:58 pm
    Post #24 - June 4th, 2007, 3:58 pm Post #24 - June 4th, 2007, 3:58 pm
    I apologize to all that I offended, as that wasn't my intent at all. And certainly I didn't want to start some "Chicago versus the burbs" thing.

    What I was trying to say, and did so poorly, was that I don't think they can survive in such a small space with the type of food they're doing at $20 for three courses. They can only seat 24 people in the place if the patio is unusable, as it was by 7:30 last Friday when I was there because it started pouring. They then must count on turning the tables at least once or twice. That can be a tough economic position after a while.

    An example of this was a table of 6 people who ordered the three course menu and then kept the table for more than two hours drinking their 1.5 liter bottles of white zin and Bella Serra. This was at a time when people were hanging out waiting for a table past their reservation time because it was raining outside and no tables were available. Several of those people left. Not an attractive economic position to be in for a new restaurant.

    I believe the way to improve the economics is to get more people ordering the seven course tasting menu at $65. My experience is that those people are going to be those who are more into wine because it's a natural putting food like this together with nice wines.

    Lastly, my comment about "the locals" was only meant to note that the tables were full with walk-in folks coming for the $20 three course menu. Can the restaurant survive in the long term relying on the neighborhood folks continuing to come at the volume that allows them to turn the tables at least once an evening, or would they be better off in the long run losing some of those folks (local or not) for people who are going to drive in from other areas (city or otherwise) and order higer-dollar items? I don't know this restaurant's particular economic position, but I would think that one $65 menu order would beat two $20 menu order.

    I'm not sure if I've managed to explain myself well enough to earn forgiveness from those who were offended by my comments, but please know that no offense was meant whatsoever. It was all about the economics of keeping a restaurant in business.

    All the best,
    John Danza
  • Post #25 - June 4th, 2007, 5:02 pm
    Post #25 - June 4th, 2007, 5:02 pm Post #25 - June 4th, 2007, 5:02 pm
    I don't know, but I you'd think that most of the 3 course dinner people would leave sooner than the 7 course ones (It would, I imagine, take less time to eat 3 courses, no?)

    The folks who sat there lingering for hours while people waited were rude. It doesn't matter what they were drinking.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #26 - June 4th, 2007, 5:19 pm
    Post #26 - June 4th, 2007, 5:19 pm Post #26 - June 4th, 2007, 5:19 pm
    leek wrote:I don't know, but I you'd think that most of the 3 course dinner people would leave sooner than the 7 course ones (It would, I imagine, take less time to eat 3 courses, no?)


    Yep, very true, but not 3 times longer. The pace for the 7-course we had was leisurely, but there was no downtime between courses. We got there at 6 and were gone by about 8:15 or so.
  • Post #27 - June 4th, 2007, 5:43 pm
    Post #27 - June 4th, 2007, 5:43 pm Post #27 - June 4th, 2007, 5:43 pm
    In the restaurant business, you're always going to have tables that "table squat" - whether they order the lower cost items or not. It's the nature of the beast. Do I think they should discourage any party of 6 from coming in and ordering whatever they want? No. Maybe these people will be so impressed by their three courses that next week they'll come in and order six course - since they live in the neighborhood it's convenient for them and they're more likely to be regulars. I'm sure Bonsoiree has taken their food costs into consideration and they are making money on the three course menu too.
  • Post #28 - June 6th, 2007, 10:37 am
    Post #28 - June 6th, 2007, 10:37 am Post #28 - June 6th, 2007, 10:37 am
    Hi, I am the Chef/Co-Owner @ Bonsoiree and wanted to clarify that the $20 Prix Fixe Menu is being run as a promotion. As a relatively new business (9 months) we needed a way to get people through the door and experience our food even at the expense of our food cost. As early as three months ago we were experiencing single digit covers per night every night and had thoughts of closing down! We are now averaging 45-55 covers daily thanks largely to the people on this forum who have supported us. John is abslolutely correct however that it is extremely difficult finacially because of the reduced prices. However, I do not want to scare customers away by suddenly increasing prices. A gradual price increase is necessary but I realize it cannot be done without increased value. My idea is to unveil a brand new Menu for the Summer in early July featuring some higer end items. I would still do the 3 course but starting at $25 and have more upcharged items. Also, I would like to get the forums opinion on tableclothes and linen napkins. I feel this would enhance the atmosphere and comfort level and it can be done relatively inexpensively. another idea includes complementary amuse for every person as an added value. Also, I would like to know your thoughts on corkage fees since it seems even restaurants without proper stemware are charging them. We currently don't charge a corkage but it seems counter productive that we carry all different types of stemware when storage & breakage are a constant problem. Any thoughts, suggestions, imput, etc. is much appreciated and I thank you for your continued support.
  • Post #29 - June 6th, 2007, 10:57 am
    Post #29 - June 6th, 2007, 10:57 am Post #29 - June 6th, 2007, 10:57 am
    Hi Shin,

    Thanks very much for the post. You're place is great, and I wish you all the success in the world.

    I think table clothes and linen napkins would be an excellent step towards atmosphere. A complementary amuse is always fun for diners if you can do it within the price point. I guess you could do it as part of the larger tasting menu and not part of the three-course menu if that helps control margins.

    I would recommend the adoption of a nominal corkage fee with some additional glassware. For instance, having flutes for sparkling wine would be a good touch. Otherwise, having a generic white wine glass and a red wine glass, as you do today, is perfectly fine in my opinion. As far as the nominal corkage, I'm thinking $4 or $5 per bottle, or you could do $5 per person if the whole table is drinking wine. As you noted, you need something to support the breakage issue.

    By the way, you can get excellent glasses and flutes very inexpensively at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I've gotten them for as little as 12 for $10 there, and they're good quality.

    All the best to you and your partners for success.

    John Danza
  • Post #30 - June 6th, 2007, 11:20 am
    Post #30 - June 6th, 2007, 11:20 am Post #30 - June 6th, 2007, 11:20 am
    I think graduated changes are a good idea. I'm a neighborhood regular and I'll admit it's the enticement of the $20 prix fixe and no corkage fee that gets me in the door so routinely. I also almost always select up-charge options at each course (except for dessert; that banana bread pudding haunts me in my sleep).

    A sudden large leap in price would be something of a mental barrier (as it's proven to be at Fonda del Mar since they acquired their liquor license; I'm afraid I've been remiss in supporting them with such a sizable added pinch to the wallet. I suspect I'm not alone, which is a shame).

    Lula, though, did it right: retaining several affordable menu options, charging a premium for their specials, and having a very cost-effective wine option by the bottle or glass. You know going in that you *can* make it a modest evening if you like . . . but if you're like me, you're almost always enticed by one of the gorgeous specials, with no regrets, because it's a fair price for the dish you've ordered. I dare say if they *only* had the high-end items on the menu, it might scare some of the regulars away. And let's face it. In a neighborhood like Logan Square, which competes against thriving food districts just to the east and north, the local regulars are a restaurant's bread and butter.

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