Heavenly meals at Avec

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Elise confirmed with me a few weeks before I arrived in Chicago that she would be willing to wait for a table at Avec so we made plans to meet up at 3:30pm.  I was pretty excited since I have been wanting to eat here for some time especially when No Reservations used to be on the air and Eric Ripert mentioned this was his favorite restaurant in Chicago.

Avec is located on West Randolph street so parking was easy but also near the Ogilvy train station.

There weren't too many people yet when it opened as there were three people seated near the front of the entrance and three young frenchmen seated to my left.  It was communal tables and the setting reminded me a lot about Momofuku ssam except patrons can sit at the bar and watch the action in the kitchen.

chorizo stuffed dates with a bottle of Rioja

I have been dreaming about the menu for quite some time and read reviews regarding recommended dishes to order but deferred to Elise since I tend to have dinner envy.  Our waitress explained that it was  family style and recommended two small plates to order and one large dish for two people.

Elise and I looked over the menu together discussing our options and she mentioned she doesn't like mushrooms so any dishes that involved mushroom were out.  I was open to everything on the menu so Elise made the decision to order three small plates and one large dish and I ordered a bottle of Rioja.

We started out with charred corn tabbouleh, peaches, radish, green olive and tahini then came the chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon with tomato sauce.

The charred corn tabbouleh was light and flavorful however, I have to say my favorite small plate was the chorizo stuff dates since I love chorizo and who cannot resist bacon?

The bacon and chorizo flavors were not overwhelming which was good and a nice sip of Rioja gave it a nice finish.

The third dish that Elise picked was a shawarma sausage with pickled onions, cucumber and smoked yogurt. Despite being a meat dish, it wasn't too heavy and the pickled onions and cucumber gave it a fresh taste.  I also loved the yogurt and didn't have the tangy aftertaste.

I looked over to my left to see what the Frenchmen were eating and they chose the chorizo stuffed dates and the focaccia with taleggio cheese accompanied with white wine.  I wasn't sure what their main entree was but didn't want to be too nosy and interrupt their meals since they weren't exactly sitting at our communal table.

Braised Lamb Neck at Avec
The braised lamb neck came with chickpeas, currants, almonds, pickled turnips with orange flower water.  The lamb was succulent and fresh and all the flavors intermingled well producing a great satisfaction within me.  I still had some Rioja left and had a sip after each bite and when my glass was low, our waitress would come by and refill them.

Our meal lasted about two hours and during this time the crowd changed into a more sophisticated set with older men in jackets and women dressed in black.  The crowd looked like they were going to attend the opera or ballet later that evening while Elise and myself and the early crowd were in jeans and t-shirts.

I liked Avec's atmosphere since we had a mixture of the older, sophisticated dinner crowd in their 50s and 60s mixed in with the younger crowd in their 20s and 30s.

Most of my dining experiences in trendy restaurants are in New York City in the Lower East Side or Brooklyn and mostly noticed the dinner crowd were in their 20s-40s.  I wasn't sure were the older crowd hung out but I would assume closer to the Columbus Circle area.

I told my mom about my dining experience at Avec and how close it was to her work. So the next time I am in Chicago, we're headed over to Avec and will sit down for the 3:30pm slot so we won't have to wait for 2 hours.

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