To create this French-Vietnamese restaurant, Macku Chan (Macku Sushi) gutted the former Erwin space, filling it with ivory booths and silver-filigree chandeliers. Flowerless plants with stout leaves line the windowsill overlooking Halsted Avenue, and soft house music plays. But why the two flatscreens harshly lighting up the front lounge with muted baseball games? Chef Macku, our waitress says, wants to attract standing-room-only customers “to watch the game” once the restaurant—currently BYO—gets its liquor license. For such a serene room, the plan seems off.
Unfortunately, “off” is a word that comes up again and again during a meal at Vu Sua. Spring rolls arrive beautifully plated, standing on end like firecrackers lit with a hefty pile of lobster and foie gras. A pool of sticky sauce is sweet and nutty, the lobster is tender, and there’s just enough foie to add slick fat without overpowering the dish. But why is the rice paper so thick and gummy? Chan pours a thin chocolate sauce over meaty cod, but the fish’s panko breading overwhelms the sauce’s delicate spices. Rosy medium-rare duck pairs well with the apple-raisin reduction that sweeps across the plate, but why the pile of tasteless sautéed spinach and two frail, bitter stalks of white asparagus?
With a few tweaks, Chan could do French-Vietnamese fare as well as he does sushi. For now, stick to the seafood soup, a ceramic pot of flavorful miso broth stocked with an abundance of mushrooms, fish cakes, salmon and cabbage; five types of sashimi, all nice nods to the tried-and-true Macku menu; and the braised Asian pear dessert, taken from simple to stunning with a sophisticated, sweet-savory sake reduction.