Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Grandma's Favorite Restaurant

In an unusual twist of events, both me and Michelle had nothing to do on a week night.  In celebration of this rare occurrence, we decided to go out to eat.  Oddly enough, both of us had a craving for mussels.  We weren't going to have just any mussels though, we were going to have the best mussels in the whole world from Chez Joel.  Chez Joel is located at 1119 West Taylor and its website is  Chez Joel is a French bistro, and it is amazing.

Of course, the whole reason we went was to get the mussels with a lemon-white wine sauce (with lots of extra bread for the sauce), so that is what we ordered for our first course.  As always, they were spectacular.  The mussels were sweet and the sauce is unbelievable.  I've made mussels before and the sauce is always much too watery.  The Chez Joel sauce is thick, very lemon-y, and finished with a nice hint of thyme.  I'm guessing they steam the mussels in white wine and lemon juice, then they remove the mussels and reduce the sauce in a separate pan, adding thyme, shallots, butter, and cream.  I should have probably just asked, but I'm pretty sure our waiter may have been a serial killer.
For my main course, I ordered the Duck L'Orange.  As you may have seen, over the last month, I've been trying to perfect my duck cooking.  This dish makes me realize just how far away I am from getting it perfect.  I will say that I think my sauce is marginally better, but Chez Joel's duck is cooked much better and the confit is amazing.  They also have perfectly crisped skin that I have been unable to replicate.  Michelle had the steak with garlic butter.  In the grand French tradition, it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare.  The bite I had of her steak exploded with garlic-y goodness.  Soaking up the melted garlic butter with the fries is one of the simplest, best things you can do.
Both stuffed full of food, we decided to share a chocolate cake for dessert.  I didn't realize that it was a lava cake (meaning that it was undercooked so the batter runs out of it like lava when it is cut open).  They used some nice semi-sweet chocolate and it was finished with a raspberry puree.  While it may not be the most creative combination in the world, it was perfectly executed and a great way to end the meal.  We made the decision to go there once a week for the mussels.  I hope we can manage to do it.

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