Monday, April 23, 2012

Brasserie by LM Provides Affordable and Approachable French Dinning

If you're like us, a solid neighborhood dinning scene is all about options. Yes, we have our go to spots (Ma & I), but in reality diverse options are what truly appeals to us. To take it a step further we really appreciate diverse options that don't cost an arm and a leg. With that said, we couldn't be happier to say that Brasserie by LM (800 S. Michigan) has opened up shop in the Sloop and delivers on both fronts.

When we think French food we think delicious, but pretentious and overpriced. We also had some questions about the location given that it was replacing Tribute, the American contemporary concept that only survived for a short five months. Luckily for Brasserie by LM, it seems like the burden of costly renovations to create a restaurant from scratch were taken care of by their predecessors. On the inside of the restaurant not much has changed.

Anyway, as we were walking to the restaurant, we played a game of "how many people would be at this restaurant?" It was a brand new restaurant and in reality opened relatively quickly without much fanfare. I guessed wife guessed 10. It ended up being more like 15-18 people.

If you've ever been to this space you quickly realize that this amount of people makes the restaurant and bar feel pretty empty. It's a really big space. Unfortunately this doesn't yield a great atmosphere for French ambiance. But for what the restaurant lacks in character and ambiance, it makes up in respect to food.

The menu is not overwhelming (maybe 30-35 options in total) and the prices are affordable (the most expensive item was the $25 three course special). We opted for the higher end of the menu and decided on the Brasserie Steak and the special (which on this day included a bib salad, duck congfit entree, and chocolate mousse). I also opted for Mesculan salad so I wasn't left out of the first course.

The salads were good, but pretty standard. The ingredients were fresh and the only complaint was that there might have been a little too much dressing. The entree was probably the highlight of the meal. The steak was very flavorful and grilled to perfection. It's not a prime cut that you would find down the road at the Chicago Firehouse, but then again it's half the price. The duck was good...if you like duck. It was tender and juicy.

For dessert, we opted to split the chocolate mousse and that was a good idea as the portion was rather large. It came in a cute little container and was supper fluffy and rich. Definitely recommended.

In regard to the service, it was opening weekend, so we wouldn't put much stock into this yet. However, there was clearly some confusion on the table numbers. We noticed the wrong dishes being delivered to the wrong tables repetitively. An easy mistake and something we assume will get better with time.

The staff was nice and warm. It also seems like some of the them are French (which makes the experience a little more authentic).

Finally, a couple random thoughts on the appearance and entrance to the restaurant. The Essex Inn isn't doing any favors for the restaurant. While they might provide customers who are staying in the hotel, the lobby (which serves as an entrance) is dated. The carpet looks like it's straight out of the 80's.

If we have one recommendation for the restaurant in regard to its appearance we would strongly suggest trying to establish that the entrance to the restaurant is from Michigan Avenue, not the Essex Inn lobby. It seems like this could be achieved by having signage or an awning over the door on Michigan Avenue.

So to summarize, the ambiance is lacking, the food is solid and affordable, the staff is nice but needs to iron out some of the simple logistics associated with running a restaurant (which we're sure they will with time). All in all, we will be back and highly suggest that you try it out.

(Image from RL Photography)


colie said...

I have been twice and will certainly go back again. Best of luck to Brasserie

Anonymous said...

20 bucks says they shut down by August...

Anonymous said...

Are these people affiliated in any way, shape, or form with Tribute? I find it odd that it opened so quick with zero press and zero fanfare . . . and signage that is scotch-taped to the windows. Also, me thinks they are serving leftovers from the tribute freezer.

Steven said...

more gold from our beloved "anons"

Dr. Seuss said...

Been twice so far. It is pretty good and reasonably priced. I hope they get enough support from the neighborhood.

Dave Kern said...

Was there last weekend for dinner, and the service is a liability.

The servers seemed anxious like kids delivering lines in a elementary school play. They had trouble with the basics like clearing the dishes from the first course before bringing the second. I saw this happen at another table as well where the waiter brought the main course while a patron was still finishing her salad. He proceeded to stand there with the plate waiting for her to finish. It was very odd.

Given the lack of crowd, the staff had a tendency to hover and constantly "check-in." Until the end of the meal, of course, when it took forever to get the bill and pay.

I'm likely to give them another try if they have outdoor seating this summer, otherwise I'm probably one and done.

Anonymous said...

We were there on a night a little on after their opening weekend to get a drink at the bar and check the place out.

I'll try it again. But it's like it was run by people who have never been to a good restaurant before. The lighting was really bright, almost like after hours when it's time to mop the floors. There was some "music" playing that I can only describe as bland hip-hop from an 80s era Steve Gutenberg movie. Completely cheesy. The place was mostly empty, and the bartender was having a pretty lot conversation with some other employee. We could clearly hear them. Just weird.

We ordered a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate, which was around $20.It was good, but not great. The cheese was served ice-cold, and took over 20 minutes to get. And again, the place was nearly empty, probably 7:30 on a week night.

Like I said I'll check it out again. I love this style of food. Hope they turn it into something good.

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with Anon 9:24. I wonder if the owners of Tribute are trying to rebrand their restaurant hoping to have better results. I think it's possible

Michael said...

Had dinner at Brasserie by LM a week ago Friday. My wife's steak was overdone as was a friends two tables over. They need to work the kinks out but Medium rare should not be well done. I don't know if it was the chef or waitstaff that left it sitting too long. Server said she would adjust on the check accordingly but that did not occur. We are hoping that the restaurant succeeds. We will try again.
BTW-Why so many Anonymous entries on this site generally?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the much of the above. The food (steak, chocolate mousse) was good, but the service was a bit weird. They have plenty of staff, but they all act as if every single task is new to them, which results in a lot of waiting. Upon entering the restaurant, via the shitty lobby of Essex Inn, staff was chatting at the bar and no-one was there to seat us. They had no clue about what kind of beer they serve, and I received the wrong beer twice.

If they can get their act together, advertise themselves better, perhaps offer some kind of after-work wine and mussles specials on e.g. Thursdays and offer nice outdoor seating this place will be fine.

Anonymous said...

I was there a few weeks ago, and agree about the weird/bad service. Our server was very sweet, but she was noticeably nervous. The hostess was much the same. I will totally go back, given the price point, and I just attribute the weird service to going too soon after opening.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the folks who own the LM restaurants (there's one in Lincoln Square) have anything to do with Tribute, but I can't be sure.

I thought the food was decent, but again, the place lacks ambience and was devoid of customers, a bit like Tribute.

I'd really like to see it succeed, but it will probably have a tough time.

Anonymous said...

We went this weekend. It was charming and we had an excellent time. Food was good. We didn't have to wait for food or service. The wait staff was nice. The price was great. We recommend the bread pudding. -Alyson

Anonymous said...

We have been about 10 times since they opened. The food is amazing for the price. The quality of the ingredients is very high. The hangar steak is as good as any filet mignon, tender and juicy. It's cut in the French style which is why this is so. The American cut is flat and not as tender. The brick chicken is fantastic. Yes the salads are the "usual" but the ingredients are fresh and crisp. The French fries are the best I've had anywhere. The service needs a lot of work. The lighting is still not right. Maybe votives on the dining room tables would help warm up the space. This is a work in progress so let's give them some time. Each time I go there more has been done. They're getting there. It is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood and so convenient for many of us.