Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day One

On the first night of Dining Out Week, we drove out to Vie in Western Springs to eat their Chef's Week Menu.  Vie is located at 4471 Lawn Avenue in Western Springs, and its website is

After a slight mishap in finding the place and a detour to two pet stores looking for a new wheel for Chipotle the chinchilla, we finally got there.  Upon walking in, I noticed the long, black granite bar to the right, which looked pretty sweet.  As we proceeded past that, there was an elevated dining section to our left that had about 3-4 tables in it.  We snaked through the restaurant to get to our table.  It was at this point I noticed that I thought something was a little bit off about the design.  Some of the tables were on wheels and looked like they should have been in some corporate board room, and others were normal restaurant tables with tablecloths.  Further, some of the tables had "spotlight" lights hanging over them.  Normally I would have paid this no mind, but no more than 4 feet away from these lights were other old-fashioned crystal lights hanging on the walls.  The whole thing seemed very odd to me.  Then again, I wasn't going to an interior decorating convention, so none of this really matters at all.

They brought us our menus, and to my delight, they had added an option for each course (except dessert) to choose from.  I looked at the menu online earlier in the day, and it only showed one option for each of the three courses, so I was a little concerned about being locked into one path of choices, which to me feels a bit like communism (and despite what your presid.... ok, I'll stop there).  Anyway, for completeness and to satiate one of my many quirks (I hate ordering the same thing as anyone else), we each ordered different dishes.  We also opted for the wine pairing to go along with it.

Before we got to our first courses; however, they brought us out a little amuse that I of course forgot to take a picture of.  It was a grilled shrimp with avocado and some sort of lemon sauce on it.  The shrimp was beautifully grilled but not overdone, and it had a lovely smoky taste to it.  The avocado rounded it out with its vegetal creaminess, and the lemon sauce cut through it all to make it a delightful single bite.

For my actual first course, I ordered the  proscuitto with caramel apple jam and spanish olive oil.  The dish came out with two thinly sliced strips of proscuitto in a pool of olive oil covered (and I do mean covered) in a mache salad.  As I pushed some of the salad to the side and began eating one of the strips, I became curious as to where the caramel apple jam was located.  I figured they must have forgotten it, but the proscuitto was very tasty and delightfully salty that I paid it no mind.  When I unveiled the second strip of proscuitto from its salad jungle, I found the jam, and lots of it.  I couldn't figure out whether they did that on purpose or not.  I finished eating the jammed up strip and then realized that I would have liked it if there wasn't such a thick slathering of jam on the proscuitto.  That leads me to believe it was a mistake to only put jam on one slice, but who knows.  They served this with a Vino Espumosa from Spain, which I very much enjoyed.  It was not as dry as many champagnes and could even be described as a little bit juicy.  The bubbles served as a nice contrast to the fattiness of the meat and olive oil.  Also, I apologize for the quality of these pictures.  I felt it would be rude and kind of weird to take big flash pictures with a real camera in a nice place like Vie, so I used my phone instead.

Michelle ordered the burrata, tomato jam, and basil pesto crostini as her first course.  It was like a glorified version of bruschetta except with much more cheese and, again, a mountain of greens on top.  For most people, the cheese would be fine, but Michelle hates most cheese for reasons that elude me (that's why we can never be European), so, needless to say, she was not thrilled with this dish.  I tried a bite of this just to see what a normal, cheese-loving person would think about it, and I too was not thrilled.  I guess it wasn't just the cheese that throws people off.  While the bread was very good, everything else was kind of mushy.  I don't really like bruschetta for this very reason, so it does not terribly surprise me that I didn't care for this dish.  They served this with a 2007 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy which is a rose from Sancerre.  I did not like this wine when I tried it, but I also tried it out of context with the dish it was intended to be served with, so perhaps it was decent with the food.  Michelle did have it with the food, and she says it was only "mediocre."  I laughed when they refilled her glass.

For my main course, I ordered the pan-fried whitefish with braised potatoes and a meyer lemon vinaigrette.  I thought I had pulled a fast one on Michelle since she just ordered a plain old Chicken Milanese, so I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.  This dish came out, and again, it had a dump-truck full of salad on top.  I don't understand the need to put a giant pile of salad on every dish, but since I can just push it to the side, I don't really care that much.  I'm generally not a big fan of fish skin, but the skin on this white fish was fantastically crisped and not slimy at all (like when I make it).  The fish was nice and moist and the sauce added a nice smoky lemony taste to it.  The potatoes may have been my favorite part of the dish.  They had some strange (but good) vanilla taste going on which married nicely with the lemon sauce.  I really liked this fish, and I wished that I had just a few more bites.  I guess that is the hallmark of a successful course.  They served a 2007 Hoopla Chardonnay with this.  I believe it was lightly oaked, and the creaminess of the wine really rounded off the sharpness of the lemon sauce.  Vie, you found another winner here.

With my glorious fish dish came Michelle's plain old Chicken Milanese (with polenta, garlic, and, of course, a whirlwind of salad).  They had brought out the wines before the course was served, and I did not like her 2008 Quattro Mani Montepulciano very much at all (continuing my string of disliking Italian wine).  I was watching her as she took her first bite, and her mouth absolutely dropped when she bit into it.  She started pointing at it and wildly gesticulating toward the plate.  Was it possible that her dish was better than mine?  Note that I have a scary ability to nearly always pick the best thing on the menu.  I had to find out for myself.  As I reached over the table to snag a bite sized  portion of it, her eyes narrowed, and I think she tried to stab me with her fork.  This alone confirmed to me that this was going to be really good.  I took the chicken and bit in, and it was like a garlic explosion with amazingly crisp, flavorful breading and some sort of tart sauce (possibly a vinaigrette) to round the whole thing off.  It was positively amazing.  I tried her wine again to see whether it went with the food, and, reminiscent of Sixteen, the wine, while not that good standing alone, was truly spectacular with the food.  This is probably the hardest part of pairing wines, I would imagine.  Risking my life, I even managed to steal another piece off of her plate.  She got me this time, even though my dish was really good too.

After the stunningly good main dishes we had, we ended, as per usual, with dessert.  Dessert today was warm gooey butter cake, tahitian vanilla ice cream, brittled peanuts, and chocolate sauce.  Gooey and butter and cake all in the same sentence?  I was totally sold just from the description.  The actual course did not disappoint my justifiably high expectations.  The best way to describe it would be "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in the World."  The cake was so gooey (I mean that in the best way possible) that it was like eating a cookie fresh out of the oven.  The butter flavor was amazing, and you all know how much I love butter.  Michelle was convinced that the vanilla ice cream was like the milk in "milk and cookies."  I get hungry just thinking about this, and it may have ruined other cookies for me forever.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Vie to anyone who wants to eat somewhere amazing, particularly in the western suburbs where there is a dearth of good an innovative places to eat.  Even though I really didn't understand the salad pile thing, I figure that is a minor blemish on an otherwise stellar dinner.  I was going to try to talk them into giving me the recipe for the Chicken Milanese, but I figured I would try my hand at it a few times before throwing in the towel and calling them.  I also may have to ask them about the warm gooey butter cake.

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