Nestled in the Randolph Street restaurant row, is Nellcôte, an airy spot that ups the date quotient over its noisier, trendier neighbors with their celebrity chefs and see-and-be-seen crowds. The decor here is ornate and certainly date-worthy, but there’s nothing pretentious about either the food or service. Both are excellent, un-pressured and comforting.
The heart of the restaurant is taken with the vibrant bar as well as ample seating for four-tops and larger parties under the sparkling chandeliers. The tables upstairs are a great vantage to people if you can tear your eyes away from the beautifully presented food.
I confess I’m more about my immediate company and the food rather than the scene, so the choice over where to focus was easy: the drink menu. While the mixed drinks came highly recommended by my Twitter followers (thanks, all!), we stuck with the curated list of beers for dinner. Our server was kind enough to bring samples of beers we didn’t order, but asked about — a nice touch.
Dishes at Nellcôte are meant to be shared, which meant part there was a bit of a negotiation over what to order and how much to try before stuffing ourselves silly. Let’s just say the question of a return visit was being planned before we’d even placed our order. Too many temptations!
We started with the roasted & pickled cauliflower salad. As I love anything pickled and have a special place in my heart for pistachios, this salad was an easy choice and did not disappoint. We also opted for a trio of breads which included a baguette, brioche and focaccia served with butter made in-house. Carb overload? Perhaps, but the flour is house-milled! We couldn’t pass it up.
We continued our carbo-loading with the simple pasta. When I was growing up, I remember my grandmother making egg noodles from scratch. However, I don’t recall her version even coming close to these. I still want to use words like homemade, rustic and nostalgic to describe them, though. So good.
The robuchon potatoes potatoes were so highly recommended (again, thanks Twitter!) that we planned our entree around this side dish. While I enjoyed the whipped, truffle-laced potatoes, my date couldn’t help but compare them with The Gage. In his mind, these didn’t win. I happily ate his share.
However, we both agreed that the beef short ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender perfection. The roasted turnips offered an excellent counter note of flavor and texture, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to indulge in the country bread that they were served on. One carb too many, it seems.
We ended the meal with a pot de creme, a delectable treasure of chocolate, espresso and caramel hidden under a thin pastry shell. It was a decadent, creamy end to an excellent meal.
There are already plans for another date night, this time filled with pasta, a pizza or two, and the tempting cocktail list. I want to try the brunch menu here, too. Plan to go? You should make a reservation just to be safe as Nellcôte fills up as the evening descends.
833 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607