Paris Club (Bar/Restaurant, River North)
It’s finally here… the long-awaited Paris Club, Chicago’s newest Lettuce Entertain You creation and a welcome addition to the River North neighborhood. R.J. and Jerrod Melman officially open the doors to their newest bar and restaurant on February 9th, which is already garnering acclaim from critics and lucky diners who’ve attended preview parties.
Lettuce Entertain You certainly knows how to reinvent. The restaurant group closed Brasserie Jo last year, recognizing that the spot had run its course and no longer fit the vibe of the new River North. Its successor has stayed true to the restaurant’s French roots, but the Melman brothers — along with veteran Chef Jean Joho (Everest) — have pumped new life into the space and the menu.
You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you approach the chic facade and hear music pumping from the speakers onto the street — because, after all, this is Paris Club. Twenty and 30-somethings will surely be lining up and down Hubbard to see and be seen here.
Lofted ceilings and exposed brick and pipes echo the ambiance of the spot’s next door neighbor, Hub 51. Walking into the front bar, you’ll find young, good-looking people sitting at high top tables and a DJ booth churning out great music. The dining room decor resembles a classic French bistro, with modern elements. The back wall is lined with mirrors and white Parisian subway tiles, while the front features floor-to-ceiling windows.
The apéritif menu boasts creative cocktails like the French 59 (St. Germaine, mandarin, and bubbly), the Gin Gin (Hendrick’s Gin, ginger, and grapefruit), and the Limonade (Grey Goose le Citron and lavender soda). For wine drinkers — and let’s be real, you’re at a French restaurant, so who’s not drinking wine? — there’s an extensive list. Can’t decide? Feel like getting boozy? Three words: Wine. On. Tap. Choose from a house Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir.
Chef Joho, the creative mind behind Brasserie Jo, worked with the Melman brothers and other top chefs to create an approachable menu for Paris Club, which is meant to introduce French food to a larger audience. Diners can enjoy small bites of many different French specialties, while not feeling pigeonholed into over-priced, inaccessible entrees.
Ordering takes a bit of finesse, as the dishes come out of the kitchen as they’re ready. Of course, if you prefer to order all at once you can request that your server time the courses properly. Your best bet, though, is to hang on to a menu and order as courses arrive.
Start with a few small plates to get the ball rolling. These tapas-like portions are meant to be shared, so order a few for the table and get ready to pass ’em around. No French menu would be complete without French onion soup, but Joho has put a new spin on this classic. The French Onion Fondue is served with warm bread on the side and a bowl of onion and cheesy goodness for dipping. Also try the Drippings on Toast (pan drippings with tender short rib) and the Lamb Meatballs. Of course, traditional bites such as Escargot and Croque Monsieur are on the menu, alongside unexpected options like mac ‘n cheese with ham.
The rest of the menu is divided into sections including charcuterie, raw dishes, salads, seafood, “French Soul Food”, steaks, and more. The cauliflower and arugula salad was a delight — a light and refreshing break from the heavier meats and sauces typical of French food. The Short Rib Bourguignonne is heaven on a plate. Sweet onions, beans and braised carrots garnish the plate, though you might not even notice them as you bite into the spoon tender short rib, marinated in a red wine reduction. Not feeling red meat? Try the Chicken Paillard, seasoned to perfection and served alongside fingerling potatoes and vegetables. When it comes to seafood, the house seems to be most proud of the Paper Bag Snapper, cooked in a parchment pouch with herbs and lemons. And then, of course, the steaks. Oh, the steaks. Choose from standard options like N.Y. Steak Frites and Filet Mignon, or opt for a more dressed up Roquefort Encrusted Filet or the Bacon Steak with slow cooked apple.
For those looking to really indulge, take a peek at the luxury offerings, where an ounce of caviar will run you $100. Don’t let that pricetag shock you, though. Most menu items run under $20, keeping the prices in line with those of Hub 51 and allowing people to dine without guilt.
There’s no doubt that Paris Club will be a big hit, so if you’ve got a hankering for something new and fun, we recommend making reservations early! And keep an eye out for the upstairs bar/club slated to open this summer.
To learn more about Lettuce Entertain You or to check out their other restaurants, visit the official website.
*Full disclosure: I am a Lettuce Entertain You employee (an R.J. Grunt’s-lovin’ fool) but I have also been a lifelong customer and continue to enjoy their many wonderful dining establishments. Can I have a raise, now? Only kidding.
**Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.