Classic French with modern touches at Brindille in Chicago's River North

May 29, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Despite its less-than-glamorous looks, Dover sole is usually served whole and filleted tableside. But the European classic is getting a facelift at Brindille, appropriate, since the name means a branch with a new growth; it's the new restaurant from the family behind Naha in River North.

"Dover sole in Europe is like halibut or cod when you're in the United States," said chef and owner Carrie Nahabedian. "I wanted to do it because it's one of the first things as a young cook that you learn how to make."

Nahabedian first takes the skin off of both sides, then carefully takes the fillets out. She spreads each one with a thick, lemony curd, making two "sandwiches" out of the four fillets. Into a hot pan they go, getting basted in butter along the way.

"Because it's so delicate, it's so light it lends so well to classically - we do it meuniere," she said.

Once the fish is cooked, she works on the sides, back in the same pan.

"We do the cylinders of potato, which is a classic rissole, only in a different shape, and then beautiful spring asparagus Viennoise with brioche crumbs, and it's just a great dish to eat," said Nahabedian.

Finally, a Nahabedian riff on a classic French sauce: fresh grapefruit juice and candied grapfruit peel are combined with fresh herbs, including mint, back in the same pan that still has juices and butter leftover from cooking the fish and vegetables.

Plating is somewhat free-form, but it always includes fennel and some fresh chervil. Nahabedian says despite the relative obscurity of Dover sole, she's managed to sell several dozen in just the first few weeks of being open.

"It is just a perfect form of nature," she said.

The dish is about $47.

534 N. Clark St.

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