Brendan Sodikoff is no stranger to Chicago's dining scene. How is it that each of his restaurants have an almost similar concept (cue words: rustic, vintage, sexy) with familiar menus and yet each of them are equally successful and yet popular? One would have thought that Chicagoans might tire of the same "old" concept by Brendan Sodikoff but no, no. We say bring it on. First it was Gilt Bar, then Maude's Liquor Bar, and then Au Cheval. Now comes Bavette's Bar and Boeuf. Not quite a restaurant, Doughnut Vault which is also his brainchild, became the talk of town on doughnuts. I've lost count the number of times we've been to his restaurants and from our observation, there is just something about the way Brendan Sodikoff runs his restaurants that make it onto the list of favorites among Chicagoans. He has a great eye for selecting who helms the kitchen with a forward vision of the menu, and the employees are well trained. He also promotes his staff from within (at least, this was what we noticed at Bavette's where experienced employees from Gilt Bar were promoted and brought into Bavette's).
Oh I am so, so in love with Bavette's. You enter by the inconspicuous door into a tiny space where the host or hostess greets you. Then he or she opens another door inside and you will find yourself in the classic and sexy Bavette's which exudes the aura of a speakeasy in 1930s New York City except that it is in Chicago and tucked behind an inconspicuous door recognizable only by the equally inconspicuous sign that says Bavette's on the door. Just gotta love the dress code for bartenders and male servers-- long sleeved collared shirts with the sleeves folded up to the elbows, tie, and a vest. Classic and sharp, and the folded sleeves add casualness to it.
Cocktails range from the classic to contemporary concoctions. I've found my favorite drink which is the Old Overholt whiskey cocktail and have never moved on to another drink since.
Best lobster and lamb chops I've ever had, says my dad during one of T and my visits to Bavette's when we brought my parents along who were visiting. Isn't there always a sense of accomplishment when you rave about a place and the people you raved to share your sentiments too, especially your parents? Ahhh. The seafood tower (comes in two options differentiated by portion size) is a perfect way to start off the night as an appetizer. Seafood on ice is usually not heavy and hence will not fill you up which makes it an even better choice for starters if you are in a group. The tower comes with various types of oysters, lobster, salmon ceviche, shrimps, and crab legs.
The lamb chops make the night memorable. Prepared and served medium rare with just enough au jus, the meat is succulent and tender. We learnt that Colorado lamb chops are used and instead of entirely removing the fat like what other restaurants usually do, Bavette's keeps a thin layer fat over the meat to help flavor the meat more during the cooking process. The lamb chops come with two piece; each piece is from the left and right rack.
Side dishes are always overlooked but oh my, the baked sweet potato really is something. Once it's brought to the table, who can resist the urge of heaping the very soft sweet potato with melted butter and brown sugar onto their plate? We haven't seen any restaurants offering roasted tomatoes as a side dish; we've however seen a lot of grilled tomatoes in British pubs as part of the English breakfast which we love so much. Credits go to Bavette's again for expanding beyond the more predictable side items (although they do the "predictable" side items so darn well!). The coleslaw is refreshing and light, with just enough dressing.
Other noteworthy dishes that we have tried and are not pictured:
Berkshire pork chop: Berkshire is what wagyu is to beef; the marbling of the pork chops helps to render the fat which increases the flavor of the meat.
Salt cod brandade: We liked very much the fact that we could actually taste actual cod meat in the brandade instead of being all mushed up. Great starter item.
Beef tongue: Prepared like a pot roast, it comes with slivers of carrots and rhubard in a deep flavored sauce.
Smoked whitefish caesar salad: I don't incorporate salads into my diet as much as I should (T is the opposite here) but this I will want to eat everytime.
I want to say to people Go, go, go. Or maybe I shouldn't... it has only been a couple of months since their opening and it's already proving quite difficult to make reservations. So the more people know about it, the more difficult it would be for us to snag a table for prime time seating. Oh, but that would be selfish.
218 West Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL 60654
2011 TimeOut Chicago Magazine Best Restaurateur Nominee, Brendan Sodikoff