A Hidden French Gem: Bistro Voltaire
The folks at Bistro Voltaire reached out to me a while back to come by and be transported to Paris for an evening. For those of you who don’t know, besides Chicago, Paris is my favorite city in the world! Even though I spent a semester studying in London, there is just some “je ne sais quoi” about Paris that draws me in. Anytime I have a chance to "visit" Paris, I jump at the opportunity! As I entered Bistro Voltaire I felt as if I was being whisked away to a quiet bistro somewhere in Saint Germaine (a Parisian neighborhood). The restaurant was cozy and not overly French-themed which would have made it feel touristy and fake. The weather had just begun to cool down and the wood interior automatically made me feel a bit warmer. Recently Bistro Voltaire had switched to a new seasonal menu that offers a variety of classic French dishes like French onion soup, escargot, mussels in a white wine sauce, several fish dishes, boeuf bourguignon, and more.
Taste Tester #1 accompanied me to the tasting and we each ordered different things in order get a full taste of the menu. We started off with two of my favorites, French onion soup and escargot. One of the things I noticed about the French onion soup right away was that it wasn’t as abrasively salty as this type of soup can sometimes be. I learned later that it was made with a vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken stock. I convinced myself that the escargot was slightly more “healthy” than the foie gras parfait that tempted me on the menu with its mousse, sour cherry compote and toasted baguette. Thankfully, the escargot didn’t disappoint and I enjoyed dipping the puff pastry that came on top, into the garlic butter that the snail rested in below.
Next we decided on splitting (or in my case trying to split), the seared sea scallops with parsnip puree, roasted brussel sprouts, crisp pancetta, and red wine reduction; and the roasted rack of lamb with butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, and rose-mary demi-glace. Both the parsnip and butternut squash purees really stole the show. They were velvety-smooth, seasoned just right and each paired well with the protein on the plate. My scallops were cooked perfectly which is a feat in itself; seared perfectly on the outside, and warm, but not chewy on the inside. The lamb wasn’t overly fatty which can sometimes be the case, and the rose-mary demi-glace gave it the perfect finish. We decided to pass on dessert and instead enjoyed a glass of wine with our meal from the large wine list.
I loved that this small restaurant in River North/Gold Coast had a relaxed, European-feel which was a welcome change from a lot of the sceney restaurants that tend to surround it. The food was plated perfectly and taste-wise certainly didn’t disappoint. Bistro Voltaire is the perfect place to get cozy as a couple or with close friends, especially if you are one to eat with both your eyes and your mouth!
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