This week, the main reviews in both the Tribune and Time Out are for suburban restaurants. And to this we say, shrug. Don’t get us wrong; people live in suburbs and go to restaurants there, and Chicago’s suburbs are home to some fine destination restaurants (Le Titi De Paris, Vie, Katy’s Dumplings, etc.) Based on their reviews, however, it does not seem like Bistrot Monet or Sage fall into that rarified category. Instead, they both come across as great neighborhood restaurants (to borrow a phrase from LTHForum), of which there is nothing to be ashamed.
Sage (260 Green Bay Rd, Highwood, 847-433-7005) is helmed by Greg Darrah, veteran of Chicago’s new American scene (Bin 36, Cafe Absinthe, Green Dolphin Street and Park Grill are among his previous posts). Phil Vettel finds that this experience has served him well, remarking on the “complexity and richness” of his dishes. For this suburban outpost, Darrah hedged his bets and crafted a menu that can satisfy both sophisticated foodies (pan-roasted escolar with candied fennel, grilled asparagus and caviar creme fresh) and boring people (grilled Atlantic salmon). But the prices are commensurate with city versions of this restaurant, and while the food is undoubtedly enjoyable, the review does not give a compelling reason for someone from, say, Wicker Park to drag his or her ass 26 miles up to Highwood.
In her review of Bistro Monet (462 N Park Blvd, Glen Ellyn, 630-469-4002), Heather Shouse is much less cagey about this point - it’s definitely a local spot. But a very nice one, with highly attentive service that would probably suffer if it were more than regionally popular. Shouse was impressed by a phone call in response to a reservation inquiry that she received from chef Michel Saragueta, who did not know she was reviewing his restaurant. We would be similarly tickled if a chef called us, especially one with a French accent (swoon). The personal attention continued through the meal, which Saragueta served himself. Unfortunately, the food did not quite live up to its potential; Shouse cited some aging mussels and dried-out confit of duck, neither of which should be the case at a bistro.
[Photo: Sage Recipes]