The Blanchard: Escape to the heart of France in Lincoln Park

In the heart of the bustling Lincoln Park neighborhood, The Blanchard offers a delightful French-themed escape from the crowds. The website describes the restaurant as “refined, casual, contemporary and classic all at the same time.” The Blanchard’s heart is an open kitchen fronted by a chef’s counter. The décor is understated and chic, and there is a delightful patio area strung with lights and shaded by trees along a quiet cul-de-sac.

The small but superbly-curated menu shines with classic French technique mixed with modern creativity. You must experience Executive Chef Ryan Burn’s French fare firsthand. Burns was Chef de Cuisine when the Lincoln Park-located restaurant was lauded “2016 Critic’s Choice: Best New Restaurant” by the Chicago Tribune, “Best New Restaurant 2016” by Chicago magazine and “Best New Restaurant” at The 2016 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence.  After a recent visit, I can attest that these accolades have been well-earned.

 

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Burns has a brilliant way of taking traditional French fare, deconstructing it, and reassembling it into something special. The dishes still retain the essence of their tradition, but the artistic reimagining elevates them. For instance, the Coq au Vin is served with crispy pork belly, onion, chicken truffle roulade, pine nuts, maitake mushrooms, crispy sage leaves, and a red wine sauce – many of the ingredients you would expect in a traditional preparation. At The Blanchard, the reimagined version comes out with all of the ingredients artfully arranged on a plate so that you can savor each of the flavors together or separately. In addition, the presentation is like a work of art.

If you are in the mood for seafood, the menu offers several options. I highly recommend the King Crab served with Parisienne gnocchi, pickled ramps, morel mushrooms, and ramp nage. The Parisienne gnocchi was a revelation. It is prepared using puff pastry and is light and airy – nothing like the denser more traditional version.

 

One item of note on the menu is the Spice Roasted Carrots, served with puffed barley, cardamom tuille, vanilla scented crème fraiche and curry essence. My guest and I loved the entire meal but this one side dish stood out as exceptional. For an elevated experience, pair the carrots with the 2015 Kettmeir, Müller Thurgau, Alto Adige. You will thank me for this recommendation.

No visit to The Blanchard is complete without sampling their foie gras – something for which the restaurant has long been lauded. My guest and I sampled two of the unique preparations:

Black Truffle Crusted – a seared version crusted with black truffles, served with  candied lavender, sauce madeira, and truffle essence. For a superb wine pairing, try the 2014 Domaine De La Bergerie “Clos De La Bergerie”, Chenin Blanc, Coteaux du Layon.

Copeaux de Foie Gras – a cold version that involves shaved frozen foie gras atop poached rhubarb, sheep’s milk custard, rose gelee, and edible flowers. Think “fois gras ice cream” and you will get a sense of this delectable appetizer.

You can review the rest of the stellar menu HERE.

The innovative cocktail program by Michael Simon (Acadia; the Wit; Celeste) offers a wonderful accompaniment to the cuisine. The all-French wine list, too, provides a perfect counterpoint to the food. There are some familiar vintages, but the bulk of the list contains unique boutique varietals and labels. This is a wonderful opportunity to sample some of France’s more intriguing wines.

Bon appetit! 

The Blanchard, located at 1935 N. Lincoln Park West, is open Wednesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; Sunday 5-9 p.m. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. For more information, call 872.829.3971 or visit their website. You can follow their social media conversations on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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