Since opening just three years ago, Le Sud has created a reputation as one of the best of the Mediterranean-inspired restaurants in Chicago. The original focus was on French cuisine, and I had the pleasure of visiting just after the opening and writing about the experience. Le Sud recently invited Your Chicago Guide to return for a look at the new menu.
Since opening, Le Sud has undergone a few changes including a new executive chef, Michael Woodhall. He has expanded the restaurant menu to become more inclusive of the wider Mediterranean region. The flavors of Provence that identified the restaurant when it opened remain, but now the cuisine includes a strong focus on the ingredients, flavors and cooking styles of the Basque region of Spain.
Woodhall has been a part of the team at Le Sud since the opening in 2018, moving up the ranks from line cook, sous chef, to executive chef. He has an impressive culinary pedigree including time as chef de partie at Perennial Restaurant in Lincoln Park. His culinary journey led him to Hogsalt Hospitality in 2011, where he became chef de partie at Gilt Bar, followed by executive chef of Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf.
The new menu at Le Sud continues the restaurant’s impressive presentation of Mediterranean flavors. My recent visit was on a gorgeous sunny early evening, and I enjoyed alfresco dining on the spacious sidewalk café. I managed to make it just in time for ‘last call’ at their excellent happy hour to sample a glass of 2019 Bodegas Shaya Verdejo paired with Grilled Cantimpalitos – tiny chorizo sausages served with cornichons, lemon, honey, olive oil, and grilled baguette slices.
After the happy hour, I moved on to dinner. For an appetizer, I ordered the Fried Polenta Cake to sample one of the gluten-free offerings. Two triangular portions of fried polenta are served atop a salad of Coquillo olives, cucumber, marinated leeks, frisée and tomato, with Romesco sauce on the side. The salad itself is a standout, but the hearty portion of polenta was certainly impressive. I ate one of the two cakes and brought the other home where I found it was still excellent served cold the next day. Clearly, these appetizers are shareable.
Other appetizer options include baby kale and Manchego salad, braised Spanish octopus, smoked ham and cheese croquette, and fava beans with crème fraiche. That last item featured in my previous review of Le Sud last year.
Woodhall has added excellent new entrées including Salmon a la Ribereña, Simply Grilled Fish with Sauce Romesco, and Scallops a la Plancha. Some patron favorites remain on the menu, including Grilled Bavette Steak “Txuletón”, Half Roasted Chicken “Poulet Basque”, and Grilled Sakura Pork Chop (all three are gluten-free options).
A seared duck breast featured on the original 2018 menu and Woodhall has adapted the recipe and added duck onto the current menu. The newest version is Honey-Glazed Duck Breast served with a salad of ajo blanco, red grapes, Marcona almonds, saba, and arugula. I chose to pair that with a glass of 2015 Viña Equia Tempranillo (a fantastic pairing, by the way).
There are several specific menu items that I often consider as ‘tests’ for a good restaurant and duck is one of those. If a restaurant can create perfectly cooked duck breast, then I know there are talented people in the kitchen. This duck was superb – on the rare side of medium rare, well-seared on the outside, and served with a delectable sauce.
I have long been impressed by the small but fantastic wine list. Since my last visit, they have continued to refine the list with more intriguing and inventive wines. As with the menu, the former list (primarily French) has expanded to include more Spanish varietals and blends. The expanded wine program’s thirteen glass pours highlight blanc, rose, rouge and sparkling selections. Just over thirty wines by the bottle are also sourced from Mediterranean region and they have a lovely reserve wine list featuring sixteen selections. One of the hallmarks of the wine list is affordability – with pours from $9 – $13 and some excellent bottle selections under $40.
If you have any room for dessert, try the Dip & Sip Donut special. Le Sud has partnered with a local “mom and pop” donut shop called Dip & Sip located directly across the street from the restaurant. Based on what fresh donuts are available, the specific dessert preparation will change. On my visit it happened to be one of my favorite flavor combinations – chocolate and salted caramel. Instead of wine, I decided to pair dessert with one of Le Sud’s inventive craft cocktails called Layover in Spain (Bulleit Bourbon, PX Sherry, brandy, bitters) – a lovely pairing and a great digestif after a hearty Mediterranean meal.
The collaboration with Dip & Sip is part of Le Sud’s strong commitment to supporting the Roscoe Village community. In fact, if you donate a dollar or more to one of four local community organizations (Audubon School, Common Pantry, Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce, or Roscoe Village Neighbors), Le Sud will match your donations 100%, up to $1,000 per month total.
Le Sud (2301 West Roscoe Street) is open for dinner service Wednesday – Sunday, 4:30 – 10 p.m. Le Sud’s happy hour menu is available Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 – 6 p.m. featuring $3 craft brews, $6 glasses of wine and cocktails, and select small plates for $6. Ample street parking is available, much of it free (a huge bonus in Chicago). For more information or reservations, visit the Le Sud website or call (773) 857-1985.