Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Look: Eiffel Society

Full disclosure: Last Thursday night, we were invited to check out Eiffel Society as a guest of Jen Bond of the Bond PR Firm. Eiffel Society is a client of Bond PR. Also, Jennifer Bond handles PR for Hogs for the Cause. We did not pay for the meal.

Every time either we try and describe an interior, the interior designers who read this site pounce. Now granted, they are right. We don't know Mid-Century Modern from Renaissance Gothic, and we are pretty certain Minimalist is the philosophy practiced by the Germans in The Big Lebowski. All that being said, the design scheme of Eiffel Society is certainly artsy.

Coming in from the streets, you walk up the long graceful ramp soaring above the garden planted with herbs, sweet potatoes, and all other manners of edible plants. Stepping inside, to your right is a bar built out of wood that resembles either the Nina or Pinta, but not the Santa Maria. On your left are two octagonal silos, their exteriors covered with mirrors. Step inside one, and mirrors surround you, while lights above brighten and dim. It would make for a perfect midnight rendezvous between a narcissist and himself. Inside the other silo, a bank of video monitors allows you to spy on the person in the other silo from a variety of camera angles. It would make the perfect midnight hideout for a voyeur.

Anchoring the room is a long table called the King's Table, which is carved from a single piece of wood. In another corner is a what looks like a giant bean bag chair made of wood. You can sit on it if you like. I did not because I am a klutz and would have broken it somehow. There is usually nightly entertainment be it a singer, jazz band, or a fashion show.

Eiffel Society combines the talents of Chef Ian Schnoebelen and Alan Walters, the Shakespeare of Cocktails, both of Iris with a group of nightclub impresarios (whether they are or not, we don't know; just always wanted to use that term) made up of Jeff Gapultos, Remi De Matteo and Brandon Brown, alums of the Lifestyle Revolution Group. The goal is to blend the experience of a supper club with the vibe of an art gallery.

Enough with the background, let's talk about the food and cocktails. First, the latter. Long before anyone read this blog, Walters's cocktail creations have fascinated us. A fond experience at Iris with a parsely julep always sticks out. At Eiffel Society, he is given free reign over the bar with a long list of cocktails and then a weekly special cocktail list.Campari features prominently, as it should cause it rocks the Casbah. There is a sophisticated take on the Cuba Libre served in a champagne glass with a hit of bubbly and a large mint leaf. But if you are driving, there are beers and wines by the glass, including the Charles Smith's Kung Fu Girl, which is perfect with Schnoebelen's Asian accented cuisine.

About that food. Like 95% of all new restaurants, the menu focuses on customized, small plate dining experiences. We started with an order of french fries which were very good. Shaved with parmesan, they are served with a sunburst yellow aioli and ketchup. A french fry done right is a marvelous thing. These fries are done very right.

Schnoebelen's menu features a lot of pork served with crispy things and bright vegetables, and the Chef treated our favorite animal well. The tostones present a sort of open faced wanton: crisp, paper thin plaintains topped with juicy pork, pickled onions, and a few scatterings of salted ricotta. The lumpias are in many ways just an egg roll, but the robust flavors of the filling (here again, pork) were lost between the crackly wrapper and the citrus accented and sweet sauce.

The kitchen sent out an unordered roasted eggplant bruschetta which was very tasty, if a tad difficult to eat with hands.  If you use a knife and fork and eat politely, you likely will not have this problem. The crust on the pizza needs to be reworked as it arrived soft and pliable, and though the toppings are always changing, Peter hopes they rotate out the garlic sauce sooner rather than later. But maybe we are all just spoiled pizzawise now that Sherriff Pizza Delicious strode into town on his white horse and started cracking fools on the skull.

The duck confit leg with pork belly, however, is one of those dishes that just make you happy. A crispy skinned duck leg sprawls over a succulent piece of pork belly like a supermodel on a chaise lounge in an ad for designer jeans. Tying both elements together was a fig barbecue sauce which cut through the fattiness of the pork and the richness of the duck.

To finish, a tartlette filled with cream and ringed by segments of satsuma. The food at Eiffel Society surprised us. Not because of how good it was, as Schnoebelen's cooking has always been good, but because the small plates were substantial. Given the decor and art, we expected tiny portions and plates filled with squiggly lines of gastric connecting a pea and a tower of quivering roasted beet. But being wrong has its advantages.

Will you like Eiffel Society? We don't know. But we do know that we did, and you will only find out if you go. It is a different dining experience than you may be accustom to, in a setting that is very eclectic, but it may be just what you are looking for when faced with the age old question of "What to do tonight?"

Eiffel Society
2040 St. Charles Ave.


Anonymous said...

Except I'm not sure what kind of food I'd be served.

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