chicago Dining

Romantic Holiday Dining at Le Colonial

Thursday, December 11, 2014 tgoandco

Le Colonial transports guests to another milieu from a bygone era. This interior takes one back to tropical Southeast Asia around the time of the 1920’s. The mood and experience is magnificent with tiled floors, potted palms and woven rattan chairs. It feels authentic like it was transported lovingly piece by piece with it’s white painted walls and handsome, louvered shutters. It is comfortable with amply-spaced tables yet intimate and cozy. It seats about 90 guests on the first floor. One can almost feel the cool breezes of the tropic and smell of exotic flowers. Nostalgic photographs of life in Saigon during the 1920s cover the walls. The staircase behind the host stand leads guests up to a lovely second floor lounge with comfy sofas, Oriental rugs and antique furnishings. This upstairs space serves cocktails for about 30 guests with additional seating for dining.  The upstairs also has an enclosed patio space that overlooks Rush. The last time I was here, David Duchovny was having dinner. Not surprising, it is a favorite spot on the Chicago Concierge Preferred Favorites list for exceptional food. It was also named one of “Chicago’s Most Romantic Spots” by Travel + Leisure… and it truly is. The interior is dimly lit and very romantic. It is a lovely date spot even for those on a budget.

During the holidays, it is a lovely experience. It has been a while since I was here last.  Never off the radar, it is a beacon on consistency. It is always first rate in service and food. The food is French-Vietnamese. There are beautiful presentations from the menu with ample food for sharing courses. You will not starve and best of all the tastes are lovely. They offer lots a variety of menus… OMG do they offer menu options! They have a menu for just about everyone so group dining is not a problem. There is a vegan menu, a menu for those allergic to shellfish, a nut-free menu, gluten-free menu. They have everyone covered – thus one can see why they are so popular with the travel professionals. Le Colonial knows how to please people.

The chef behind all this excellent food is Saigon-born Executive Chef, Chan Le. Chan Le immigrated to the United States with her husband and daughter in 1982 and began work for ten years at the North Side’s Pasteur.  After a stint at Oak Park’s Mimosa Garden, Le joined Le Colonial at its inception in 1996.  She has been the force behind the cuisine at Le Colonial for 13 years. A stickler for consistency, she has maintained more than half of her kitchen staff for more than 10 years and works to keep thing fresh by innovating new dishes or cooking techniques. She has recently brought her son David Lam in to the mix. His passion grew through a life time of cooking lessons with his mother. Her direction has played an important part in shaping David's future culinary viewpoint.  He joined Le Colonial in 2011 as a line cook. With an undeniable love for food and a strong foundation in traditional Vietnamese cooking techniques, he quickly worked his way up the ranks in the Le Colonial’s kitchen. He has now earned the title of Chef de Cuisine. He has helped create many special off-the-menu items for Le Colonial.

So what’s on the menu?

To start off, they are serving two seasonal cocktails: a Naughty Negroni and the Le Bourbon D’Erable. The Naughty Negroni is a mixture of muddled, grilled vermouth-soaked oranges, Campari and sparkling wine. The Le Bourbon D’Erable is made with bourbon, spiced apple cider, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice with a touch of fire with cayenne pepper. Both are must-try drinks. Should you like something more exotic, just take a look at the specialty drink menu. It’s a fun read.
Enhancing the restaurant’s exquisite ambiance and feel is the exceptional menu of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Among the Appetizer and Petite Salad choices are Chao Tom, grilled shrimp wrapped around sugar cane with angel hair noodle, lettuce, mint and peanut sauce; Goi Ga Xoai, Grilled chicken with mango, mesclun greens, tomatoes, cucumber & tamarind dressing; and Banh Uot, grilled sesame beef over flat rice noodles, cucumber and fresh herbs.

Signature entrees include Ca Chien Saigon, Vietnamese crisp-seared whole red snapper with a light, spicy and sour; Sup Do Bien, Vietnamese bouillabaisse in lemongrass saffron broth, served with rice vermicelli; Ca Hap, Steamed fillets of Chilean sea bass, with cellophane noodles, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions, & fried ginger in a light ginger broth; Ca Nuong, grilled salmon with dill over vermicelli noodles; Bun Thit Nuong, barbecued pork over angel hair noodles; Cari Tom, sauteed jumbo shrimp with eggplant in a curried coconut sauce; and Bo Sate, sauteed filet mignon with sate spice, yams and string beans.

So what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Think about Le Colonial. Deeply romantic, it is perfect for ringing in the new year. There are three offerings coming from the kitchen for the evening. First is anything off the menu, just point and eat. This option is available at the upstair bar - my favorite spot. Entrées range from $20 to $30. Appetizers range from $11 to $14 with most around $11 to $12 and are quite large enough to be shared. Soups hover around $8.00 with salads about $13. This wine list is huge. There is a large variety of sparkling, dry and sweet whites and red. Bottle prices are not excessive and most per glass prices are what you would expect. What made me laugh was a selection on the menu of drinks that were less than 150 calories. I am not one to count my calories while having a cocktail. For those that do, they have you covered.

The second NYE option is a three-course diner that includes an appetizer, entrée and a selection from dessert selection. This is available for $65 per person and features many of the favorites of the menu in addition to a few special dishes made specifically for NYE. Finally, should you want a leisurely meal that is cocktail inclusive, consider the six course tasting menu that has wine and cocktail pairings. This all inclusive is $200 per person. All prices do not include tax (sorry) or tip (be generous, it’s New Years).  Seating will begin at 5pm at half hour intervals. It is suggested you make your reservation EARLY as this will get booked up FAST. It is convenient to lots of party and nightclub action too should you want to book a group or be on your way to additional festivities.

Le Colonial is located at 937 North Rush Street.
The 2nd floor bar is open at 4:45 daily.
Phone: 312 255 0088

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