The Blanchard

1935 N Lincoln Park W. Chicago, IL 60614(872) 829-3971theblanchardchicago.com

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The chef comes from very good pedigree having worked at some of New York’s finest such as The Four Season (RIP), Le Bernadin and the Gotham Bar & Grill. But now he’s making a name for himself in Chi-town, serving up French cuisine with a twist. And some truffles. And foie gras. And sweetbreads.

Starting with the foie gras, this guy obvious loves it (either that or he hates geese), serving so many dishes with it he ran out of names for them and just starting using numbers. For example “Seared Foie Gras #1” and “Seared Foie Gras #2,” of which I had the latter, crusted with black truffles, candied lavender and in a Madiera sauce. And while it sounds transcendent, it was really nothing memorable, especially when compared to the much less sexy sounding foie gras hot dog, which is doggone delectable. Topped with foie gras mustard, coz why not? Onion confit and served on a brioche roll.

Of the rest of the starters the only other one I would recommend would be the scallops, so don’t fall for your waiter’s swooning praise of the Oueff Outhier. The presentation is certainly nice, basically scrambled eggs put back in the shell with vodka infused crème fraiche and caviar on top. It’s good, but the scrambled eggs at Gato in New York and Bar LaGrassa in Minneapolis both trounce the shell out of this dish.

But the most disappointing of all the starters was the sweetbreads with chicken mousse, artichoke puree and bacon fat. Surprisingly bland for something so artery clogging.

The entrée course faired much better with all three being good. Granted I found the filet of sole to be insanely overpriced. It’s sole people. Not soul. But the dish worthy of the most adoration was the rack of lamb, served with a ratatouille tatin, roasted tomato and eggplant caviar all nestled in a natural reduction. So good Shaun the Sheep would wolf it down.

But as the evening went on, things just kept getting better and better, either that or I was getting drunker and drunker. Or perhaps it was something in between. Well, whatever the reason, dessert was the icing on the cake, delivering three winners in the form of a pineapple galette with passion fruit pastry cream, frangipane (almond paste) and a crème fraiche gelato. This was followed by a crepe gateau with Grand Marnier cream and hot fudge. And the cherry on top was an Ultimate crème brulee, of which I am normally not even a huge fan. But I scarfed that thing down like it was the only thing I had eaten in weeks.

Service is very good, other then the oversell on the eggs. And the décor is very nice. Striking that balance between warm and contemporary quite skillfully. And thus rounding things out for a fantastic four.

4 teeth

Five Guys

240 Main St. White Plains, NY 10601 • (914) 422-3483 • fiveguys.com

FiveGuys

Dear 5 Guys,

Lose the peanuts and spend the money on shakes. What kind of burger joint doesn’t have shakes? It’d be like a raw bar serving up shrimp cocktail without cocktail sauce!

That MAJOR gripe aside, the burgers themselves are pretty good. In fact, a lot of East Coasters even claim them to be the In n’ Out Burger of the East. Granted most of those East Coasters are either delusional or simply mind-fucking themselves into believing it, but even with all the wishful thinking in the world, comparing them to the likes of In n’ Out is a VERY generous bridge too far. I mean sure, it’s great that the burgers are better than Burger King, and I’m even happy to give 5 guys the upper hand when it comes to their fries (light years better than the cardboard crap at In n’ Out), but I’d take a Double Double Animal Style any day over 5 Guys. Which brings me to my second major gripe, I don’t like burger places without a point of view. As Ego would say in the movie Ratatouille, “give me some perspective.” I hate “make your own burger” places. If I wanted to make my own burger I would’ve done it AT HOME! I came to you because I just wanted to pick out something interesting off of a menu. Ideally a combination of things that I wouldn’t have thought of.

So, with these two major dings going against it, 5 Guys is definitely not getting 5 Knives.

3 teeth

Mangia

22 W 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 647-0200mangiatogo.com

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There are a bazillion of these type of places in the city ranging from Essen to Dishes to those not even worth remembering. You know the kind. The ones with a sandwich station, a salad bar, a soup arena, a pizza pavilion, a patisserie nook and a juicing section all under one roof. And while most of these places are usually a jack of all trades at best, Mangia actually proves to be a queen. Not quite as good as Dishes, but definitely worth its salt if you know what to get.

Working our way around by station, let’s start with the sandwiches. This is where Mangia shines brightest. The Chicken Telera was named one of the Top 100 in Manhattan by New York Magazine and I concur. Served on telera bread, which is almost challah-like, then obviously topped with chicken, plus avocado, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. Then, they stuff the whole thing in the pizza oven and warm it all up. Other worthy grabs are the short rib sciacca made with horseradish aioli. Might even be better than the Telera. And another go-to of mine is the smoked turkey on pumpernickel with cucumber, watrercress and herbed aioli. I could go through all of them, but these are the highlights. Most of them are good with only a few misses.

Next in rotation for me would be the salad bar. It might not be as large as most, but Mangia seems to focus on quality versus quantity. Hard for me to list too many highlights since it’s a bit of a roulette when it comes to what they stock it with, but some of my favorites when they have them are the pasta salads, the wild rice salad, the marinated mushrooms, the quiche/frittata and the sesame noodles. Again, most everything is good, so you can feel safe to explore.

Almost on par with the salad bar would be the bakery. They nail their cookies and most of the pastries hold up as well.

From there it’s a step down to Meh-ville, not to be confused with Melville, NY, where the pizza and the juice bar both reside in underwhelming harmony.

And last but not least, Soup town. A.K.A. The slums. For whatever reason, like Linguini in Ratatouille, Mangia just can’t seem to make a soup to save their souls. Case in point, Pret next door blows them away and Pret is a massive global chain.

My only other nit is that their fridge is always on the fritz, so it’s rare to be able to get a cold drink there. Not such a big deal in the winter, but come summer it’s a bummer. Hey, that rhymes!

3 teeth

Le Jardin Du Roi

95 King St. Chappaqua, NY 10514(914) 238-1368lejardinchappaqua.com

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This is a very hard review for me, because various aspects of our experiences here are so vastly different from one another, that it’s difficult to distill it all into one knife count. So, please read on, and you will better understand my conflicted review.

Décor Outside: 4 knives. The outdoor seating area is very charming in a little garden right off King St., perched high on a patio with dappled light pouring through the trees above. A true “jardin” setting to its name.

Inside Décor: 2 knives. The inside seating feels a quite dated and run down. Especially the bathrooms. Granted I suppose one can’t be too particular about where one goes to pop a squat.

Staff Service: 2 knives. Apart from being slow, they were also quite bad. For example, we ordered two Arnold Palmers and apple juice for my son. When they delivered the drinks, they even cut the apple juice with iced tea! Fortunately, he quickly remedied the situation. Then, after ordering our meal, I am told they are out of mustard for the burger! A place that is SO well known for its burgers completely ran out of Dijon by 12:45pm during Sunday Brunch?!? This is sacrilege to me. And while this last one is the tiniest of nits, it’s indicative of the sloppiness at large. Upon paying the bill they delivered the check, post running my credit card, without a pen. Details people. Details.

Owner/Manager Service: 5 knives. This makes up for a lot. Joe came by, asked how we were doing. We told him it was our first time at his restaurant and that we had just moved to the area. He was very friendly, talked to us a while. Made us feel right at home, and even gave us a complementary order of French Toast. For this alone, we happily returned… for dinner.

Brunch: 3 knives. The burger was indeed good. Charred perfectly on the outside, juicy on the inside. Good quality meat. The lobster roll was just okay, as was the lobster salad that my wife had. And the French Toast was very good, maybe because it was free. Maybe because it was just really good. A simple baguette soaked through with eggy goodness.

Dinner: 1 Knife. So, as I mentioned above, we happily returned. But unfortunately “happily” was not how we left. Service was noticeably better and Joe was as friendly as ever, but man is the dinner menu bad. The salad with goat cheese and spinach wontons was meh. The special sole almondine with ratatouille was just okay. The bouillabaisse was flavorless and the moules frites was a shell of the one served at Red Hat. And the bread pudding was an edible nail in the coffin. So bad I felt the need to go back and update this review, docking it a knife.

And so, there you have it, my NEW net, net… two knives

2 teeth.

 

Elevation Burger

228 Market St. Yonkers, NY 10710(914) 358-9400elevationburger.com

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I guess I’m not a “build your own burger” lover. I mean, isn’t part of what makes a restaurant great a point of view? Inventiveness? Show me what YOU can do. I know I can stick a ton of shit on a bun to suit my own palate. But when I walk into a restaurant I don’t want what I would do. I want what YOU would do. “Perspective” as Ego from Ratatouille would say.

So, Elevation scored zero points for me on the menu, per the rant above (shocker), but what about the quality of ingredients? They’re just okay. I honestly can’t say they’re any better than Shake Shack or 5 Guys or In and Out or BGR or Westchester Burger Co. And at least most of those guys bring something new to the party with an inventive burger or two… or ten.

But, with all of that said, if you happen to already be at Ridge Hill and you are jonesing for a burger, Elevation will do. Just don’t make a special trip and keep your expectations… less elevated.

2 teeth