Monday, December 12, 2011

LM Restaurant/Paciugo Gelato

With the holidays closing in and Mrs. Hackknife traveling for work more than usual, we here at the Commissary have had little opportunity to post updates during the month of December. As a result, I've got a backlog of material waiting to be hashed out for your reading pleasure. In an attempt to catch up, I'm planning soon to do a multi-restaurant dump where I write maybe a paragraph or two about each in a single posting (I know, it's crude and a bit lazy on my part, but I don't see any other way to crawl out from beneath the ever-growing pile). Until then, I sit down this evening to pen a regular report that's been waiting for its due for almost a month.

As we are frequent diners and, by extension, frequent users of Open Table (OT), earlier this year Mrs. Hackknife earned a dining certificate from the good folks at OT entitling us to $20 off dinner at LM Restaurant, located in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Square. During 2011, we tried a number of times to cash in said certificate, but we were never quite able to find an evening where we were both available and could get a reservation. With the expiration date looming in early January, I finally took the liberty of reserving a table for us on a Saturday night in November just so we could use it up. I'd heard decent things about LM, which bills itself as a "gasto bistro", a term that I'm not sure I fully understand (although it seems to involve fine French-inspired dining without the stuffiness - I'm ok with this). In my mind, I had images of steak frites and other good things that one can get at your average Parisian bistro; however, that perception wasn't entirely accurate as I'll get to in a minute. The restaurant itself is located on a busy stretch of Lincoln Avenue and isn't very big, at least not in the front dining room where we were seated. The decor is bright (yellow walls, orange booths) and modern, with tables close together and a relatively high level of background noise (not surprising given the small space). After settling in, we ordered our starters - I chose the salt cod brandade (garnished with piquillo pepper puree, olive oil, and brioche) and Mrs. Hackknife picked the foie gras torchon (served with red onion confit, strawberry, basil, and toasted brioche), both of which were very good. For the entrees, my lovely bride swooned over the prime tenderloin (she's a steak girl through and through), which was accompanied by pont neuf potatoes, wild mushrooms, and a bearnaise sauce; I opted for the Amish chicken, served atop sweet potatoes, chestnut and ham ragout, candied pecans, and topped with a few Brussels sprout leaves (see photo above). The bite of tenderloin that Mrs. Hackknife graciously shared with me was good (I'm not as much of a steak enthusiast as she is), but my chicken was absolutely fantastic (I commented to our server that I wished I could cook chicken like this at home - he agreed). In lieu of dessert, we did the French thing and ordered the cheese plate. We were presented with 3 varieties of cheese (Brie, Hook's Blue from Wisconsin, and Tarentaise from Vermont) with date/banana compote, more candied pecans, and nice bread. All told, with our certificate, it was a very affordable meal that certainly met our expectations on quality (I sense we'll be back).

As you might imagine, we were pretty full after all that indulgence, but not too full to have a little gelato on the way back to the car. It turns out that one of the better gelato chains around (Paciugo, currently 38 locations with one probably coming soon to a place near you) happened to be just up the street, so we ducked in for a little sweet refreshment. Paciugo started in Dallas in 2000, a scant 2 years after I left the Lone Star State (figures), and they offer a plethora of unique gelato flavors. I tried a sample of the triple chocolate and I was immediately blown away by it, while Mrs. Hackknife happily noshed on a Mediterranean sea salt caramel. While we've already designated Black Dog as our favorite downtown gelato stand and Zarlengo's as our close-to-home gelato fix, I'm pretty sure Paciugo will get our business anytime we're seeking dessert on the North Side...

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