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Restaurant Tue Mar 24 2009

Aigre Doux Introduces Bar Menu

In a likely attempt to entice recession-weary customers into their sleek, modern dining room, Aigre Doux, a contemporary Amreican restaurant in River North, just introduced a bar menu. My husband and I had wanted to try this restaurant for a long time, so we decided to use this new bar menu as an excuse. And here's the rundown:

The Good: Most of the items on the bar menu come under $10. The menu includes items that show Chef Mohammad Islam's love of blending classic French techniques with diverse culinary influences and ingredients: braised smoked bacon is served with Asian cabbage and tangerine slaw, while brandade is a classic Mediterranean dish. For the classicists, there's also moules frites. The adventurous might find crispy veal sweetbread with snow pea salad intriguing.

The Bad: You might have to ask for the bar menu from the bartender, because he doesn't seem too keen on volunteering the information. In fact, I didn't see or hear a single reference to this new addition anywhere in the restaurant. A bit mystifying, if you ask me.

The Ugly: The bar menu might not sound as enticing as you expect from a restaurant of Aigre Doux's stature (and price range, of course). Braised smoked bacon might sound interesting, but Asian slaw is nothing new these days. We scanned the bar menu and felt the choice limited. Ask to see the regular menu at your own peril, though: we did, and we ended up ordering off the regular menu, which had just been updated to reflect the advent of spring.

My not-so-well-grounded opinion, based on this just one visit, is that Aigre Doux's regular menu items are not quite worth their hefty price tags. (For the uninitiated, their entrees run between $26 to $34, sometimes higher.) Although all the dishes were well prepared (and my medium-rare duck was wonderfully tender and flavorful, a hands-down winner of the dinner), a lot of them were overly salty to the point of obscuring the subtler flavors of the ingredients. I was quite intrigued to see kaffir lime leaves used in my tagliatelle, but alas, they were nowhere to be detected.

I'm well aware that judging a restaurant based on one dinner may not be fair, but when a single visit costs me as much as it does with Aigre Doux, it's hard to give it another try--recession or not. So, for us, the bar menu might be what brings us back for the second chance. A glass of wine with a few plates from the bar menu, followed by coffee and dessert doesn't sound too bad. And the tiny scoop of "Devonshire cream sorbet" that accompanied our dessert of choice--sticky toffy pudding--was absolutely heavenly. I can see myself going back there, if only for that little creamy goodness.

Aigre Doux
230 W. Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL
Tel: 312-329-9400

Joseph / March 29, 2009 6:55 AM

Chef Islam? Islam? No thanks.

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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