Restaurant Week kicks off in Chicago

February 20, 2009 10:47:03 AM PST
The restaurant industry has been taking a beating the past few months, so the city is once again trying to help them spark some new business with the second annual "Restaurant Week," which begins Friday.This special, week-long promotion couldn't come at a better time for local restaurants. Based on successful programs in New York City, the Chicago Restaurant Week gives diners a chance to sample fine food at a fraction of the normal price.

Think $22 for a three-course lunch, and $32 for a three-course dinner. Considering the caliber of restaurants that are involved, there is no better time to eat out, then over the next seven days.

Chad Starling has only been in his new job a few weeks. As the Executive Chef at Le Lan, a French-Asian restaurant in River North, he's been putting his own stamp on the menu.

Participating in Chicago's Restaurant Week gives him another opportunity to expose the restaurant to new customers.

"It showcases and it highlights kind of what we do here, the flavors, the style just of Le Lan; Southeast Asian...mainly Southeast Asian, with some French influence," said Starling.

He'll offer two choices for each course. Starters might include shrimp and mussels bathed in a Thai-influenced chile-coconut broth. While his elaborate main courses dazzle: think chile-smoked hanger steak set among coconut polenta, with some braised winter greens. Dessert is a study in peanut butter pairings: as a mousse, alongside caramelized bananas and jelly, also, with chocolate sorbet. Like many foodservice workers, Starling hopes Restaurant Week brings in new business.

"I think it's a good way to get the attention out there for people who actually don't even live in Chicago who are coming in to travel; you know, give them a destination when they come in from town, out of town," Sterling said.

A few blocks north, Chef Martial Nougier is the new chef at Cafe des Architectes, inside the Sofitel Chicago Hotel. A popular lunch destination, he's hoping to expand that base at dinnertime.

"What we want to do is to keep the quality, to keep the same portion.. for everybody who's going come to try the food," said Noguier.

His lunch menu is set, but at dinner, you have four choices for each course. Starters such as duck confit topped with curly frisee and bright oranges, entrees like the Duo of Beef - hanger steak and braised short ribs, set over a puree of roasted shallots and topped with a watercress salad. Desserts are classic, including a chocolate-pistachio dome hovering over a milk chocolate mousse and pistachio cream center, with a little sour cherry foam for contrast.

Noguier says the week could prove beneficial for repeat business.

"I think it is good also for marketing because it's going to be a week that people are going to try, and it's our job to do a good job with the food and the service for them to come back after this," said Noguier.

Cafe des Architectes
Hotel Sofitel
20 E. Chestnut

Le Lan
749 N. Clark St.

Chicago Restaurant Week
February 20 - 27
More than 130 participating restaurants offering three-course, prix-fixe lunches for $22 and $32 for dinner, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity
View the list of participating restaurants and make online reservations at