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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, November 29

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Openings Thu Aug 02 2012

Champagne Salon, RM, Opens in West Loop this Sunday

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." (John Meynard Keynes)

RM, the new Champagne Salon concept from sommelier Jason Wagner (former wine director alongside Joël Robuchon), backed by the guys behind Element Collection (Nellcote, Old Town Social) is making its debut this Sunday in the West-Loop scene at 116 N. Green St. (Previously slated to open yesterday, the website, Facebook and Twitter pages confirm the opening has been delayed until tomorrow). Tucked behind Nellcote with access via a cobblestone entrance that opens into a courtyard patio decorated by an array of candles and tea lights, you might, for a minute, feel transported to a place that you wish you were jumping on a plane to tomorrow. Like the south of France, or Sicily. RM Outside.jpg

Once you get past the courtyard, it's obvious that RM is a by-product of the Element Collection team with its use of dark tones, black wrought iron, crystal decor and overall European feel. I can't quite place it but whether I'm at Old Town Social, Nellcote or now RM, I feel exactly what the partners claim they are going for: sophistication without the pretense. They've succeeded in their concepts in a city that's sometimes hard to convince.

When considering that most of Chicago's understanding of a champagne bar is shaped by the popular Pops for Champagne, however, you might wonder, what will make RM different from Pops?

First of all, RM features an "obsessively curated portfolio of Grower champagne" -- which is to champagne what hand crafted is to beer -- while Pops divides its menu between vintage, non-vintage and grower. Where Pops is Michael Buble and Phoenix, RM is White Stripes, Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone. If Pops were a woman it would be Jennifer Aniston, classy yet fun, while Grace Kelly, the cultural epitome of sophistication and elegance, is the said muse. Alternately, if Pops where a man, it might be George Clooney or Chris O'Donnell, whereas RM would be Lenny Kravitz or Ryan Gosling. Where you go to Pops for the garlic frites, vodka crème mussels and people-watching, you will go to RM for the its cobblestone entryway, the candlelit patio, its propensity to motivate you to delve into intellectual conversations, Fellini and French black and white films and the opportunity to watch Wagner saber champagne bottles with a sword on special occasions.

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Not being a champagne connoisseur, Pops menu is notably more approachable than RM's, but I guess that's what differentiates a Champagne salon from a Champagne bar. On the food front, I sampled their oysters with mignonette, beef and salmon tartare and hamachi sashimi. All notably good but not great with the exception of the sashimi, which had a texture of butter with a slight sweetness of grapes. When I head back for a late night black and white film and a saboring show, I'm going in for that again.

Is Chicago ready to make Champagne the next drink of choice? Will another Nellcote inspired joint blend into the Randolph "growing faster than a teen-age boy" food culture or will it get lost in its own cobblestone, overshadowed by its own brother? I'm of the opinion that RM and Champagne has found itself at the right place at the right time. Get there sooner than later, folks, this place has velvet rope written all over it . . . or at least until November comes.

PS: For all you social media-ites out there, Wagner will send out exclusive tweets letting people know when they can come in and try magnums by the glass. Follow them at @RMchicago.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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