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Sep 23, 2012 02:52 PM

New Bonsoiree? Alternatives?

I am going to be in Chicago visiting my sister for my birthday and we're looking to go out to a fancy dinner. I will be there the weekend of the Oct 5th, so I think I've missed my chance to get a reservation at many places. I am considering Bonsoiree, but I hesitate because they have a new chef. Has anyone been there since Beverly Kim took over? If you recommend against it, do you have any alternative suggestions?

I am a fish-eating vegetarian, but other than that I have no restrictions. Bonsoiree is barely in my price range, so I am not up for anything more expensive. (Under $200 for two people would be ideal.) A tasting menu is appealing, but not necessary since I know it can get pretty expensive.

I am going to be in Logan Square, where my sister lives, but I am happy to go anywhere that we can get by public transit in under an hour. We also might be dining on Thursday or Monday, so I might be able to get in somewhere I couldn't on the weekend.

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  1. I had a really nice dinner at the new Bonsoiree and would say it is as good (though very different) under Chef Kim. The food is very seafood and vegetable heavy and they would substitute the meat for you. My only concern is the 12-course menu would be well above your price range and I am not so sure the six-course meal would be all that filling unless you have a small appetite.

    Some other restaurants to consider (with availability in your price range) that are considered by most to be very good and have availability (via Open Table) would be Boka, GT Fish & Oyster MK, and Mexique. Take a look at their menus to see if they have dishes that you find appealing. I have been to all of these venues at least once (and all but MK at least twice) and have always had a wonderful time. Mexique is a fusion of French and Mexican cuisine and this and GT Fish would be the two cheapest venues I listed (as well as the most casual). MK is a fine dining venue (but reasonable prices) and Boka is a Michelin starred venue with modern American cuisine. Boka and MK would be at the upper end of your price range; Boka would be better if you like something funky/modern and MK if you prefer a more traditional venue. MK and Boka are both dressy, but not formal (i.e. no jacket required for men).

    1. Takashi in Wicker Park sounds right up your alley-- beautiful, delicious, Michelin-starred French-American with a Japanese touch. Definitely doable for under 100 a person, plenty of tables open right now, and very easy to get to.

      1 Reply
      1. re: elysiumarie

        Second Takashi. I'm going there in a couple of weeks. It's very good.

        I'm also going to the new Bonsoiree, but have never tried it under Chef Kim. We're trying the 6-course menu rather than the 12. I hope we don't go home hungry.

      2. The contemporary Mexican cuisine at Mexique, in West Town, is great, and something you won't find in most other cities. It's a wonderful place, with a casual lively bistro atmosphere. And very affordable - with entrees around $20, you won't come anywhere near that $200 limit!

        Another casual bistro that has terrific food is Deleece on Southport, in Lakeview. Absolutely delicious food, in a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. And also very affordable, with entrees around $20.

        But if you want something that comes across as more upscale, I'd recommend Boka, in Lincoln Park. It's contemporary American, the food and the service are terrific, and it's a place that doesn't get as much attention but really has its act together.

        Now, if you want a place that is really upscale, and priced about the same as Bonsoiree, I'd strongly recommend Naha, in River North. Naha is one of the best restaurants in Chicago, aside from the big-buck places that require business attire; I like chicgail's recent description of Naha: "consistently excellent, casually elegant and centrally located".

        Opentable shows plenty of availability for next weekend for all of these places.

        Here's how much I've spent at each of these places for recent dinners for two including moderate alcohol and tax/tip: Mexique $100, Deleece $100, Boka $175, Naha $225. (I also spent $170 at Takashi but was disappointed in the food, although the decor/atmosphere is very pleasant.)

        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          nsxtasy wrote:

          "But if you want something that comes across as more upscale, I'd recommend Boka, in Lincoln Park. It's contemporary American, the food and the service are terrific, and it's a place that doesn't get as much attention but really has its act together."

          Just a caveat about Boka. I ate there last week with a group of friends. I loved what I ordered a bento box with a sampling from the raw bar and a first course of the marinated grilled squid. I also sampled some of the melon, mint & feta side someone ordered and a bit of someone else's skate main. The side salad was great. The skate was good but after a few bites was revealed as seriously over-salted. So much so that my friend stopped eating it. Another friend absolutely hated her halibut main while others who ordered the same thought it was okay but not great. Nobody liked the desserts which I can only describe as weird. It has been almost a year since I had (previously) been to Boka and I picked the restaurant so I wanted people to like it. Most left feeling that the food didn't justify the expense. I can kind of see their point on the entrees which were in the $30 to $40 range and were not generous in their portions. I ordered my main course from the first course listing and for less than $20 got as much food as the listed entree mains. I ordered that way because I don't eat as much as I used to not because I was trying to be economical (my friends were treating me to dinner in any event).

            1. re: DutchOenophile

              I just had my November rez cancelled. Pretty upset. Now it's too late for El Ideas.

              Maybe Beverley was a difficult for them as it it appeared she was on Top Chef. I never figured out who the the source of all that unhappiness was.

              1. re: chicgail

                Now for me it's between Storefront Company and Trenchermen. Any recs for or opposition to either?

                1. re: chicgail

                  Maybe there wasn't enough business being generated too? I've read comments about the new food there either being disjointed or too subtle for the "audience" and therefore lacking in the kind of KAPOW! tastes that many diners seem to seek nowadays?

                  I was looking at making a reservation recently (I mean buying a ticket) and noticed that they were very readily available across various days and time slots, which I appreciated - but maybe they were looking for far more extensively "bought-out" scenarios.

                  1. re: huiray

                    They're only a month or two into the new chef. That's a little too soon for that kind of reputation to have become established.

                    Having had this cancelled on me, I am now very put off by the ticket concept. They have to refund my money. I sure hope they do. With restaurants on the narrow profit margin they are on, Bonsoiree is now under a lot of financial pressure.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      If you go to Storefront Co. please report back as I'm considering them for a dinner and reviews are mixed.

                      1. re: hoppy2468

                        Chicgail, I know you are down on the ticket concept, but it you still want a modern tasting menu in November you could probably get into Elizabeth.

                        1. re: GourmetWednesday

                          Thanks GourmetWednesday, I got really lucky and secured reservations for El Ideas for the same night. I don't know much about Elizabeth. Sounds like I should!

                          1. re: chicgail

                            If you still want to taste the Bonsoiree menu there are plenty of tables available through their last night (Oct 13).

                            It seems Mike Sula wasn't thrilled: . One's take depends on what one thinks of Sula, I imagine.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              Elizabeth is really an amazing and cool venue. I had gone to Chef Regan's underground dining (One Sister) and have already been to Elizabeth for two of the menus - I have photo reviews of my meals there on the LTH Forum.