About ten minutes after I tried to call Bistro Monet to make a reservation, my cell phone rang. “Allo, zis is chef Michel Saragueta of Bistro Monet. I see zat you called so I wanted to let you know zat vee are open tonight, tomorrow night, zee next night…vee would love to make a reservation for you to come and dine here at Bistro Monet.”
That’s what I call service. The guy has no idea I’m a critic, he’s probably busy prepping for dinner, and he takes the time to return a call to practically woo a potential diner into his restaurant. This, in an age when the glut of publicists, assistants and sous chefs ensures that hot-shit chefs never have to talk to the media, let alone customers.
And it’s not like Saragueta is a newbie looking to get his career started. The seasoned chef has a résumé that includes Grand Hotel Bayonne in France’s Basque region; the Savoy in London; Hotel Plaza Athenee and Hotel Lancaster in Paris; the “21” Club in New York; Le Mondrian Hotel in L.A.; and the Beverly Hills Hotel. He came to Chicago to head up the kitchen at Ciel Blu in the Mayfair Regent Hotel, but when it went under, Saragueta downsized, heading to the ’burbs to run Suzette’s Creperie in Wheaton and now Bistro Monet in Glen Ellyn.
His current haunt has a history as well, first gaining recognition in the late-’90s as Les Deux Gros (“The Two Fat Guys,” namely Michael and Thomas Lachowicz) and later as Les Deux Autres (“The Other Two,” chef Jonji Gaffud and pastry chef Louisa Lima). A little more than a month ago, Saragueta took over. If the sparsely populated dining room and eager callback are any indication, he needs to let people know he’s there.
Honestly, the food isn’t going to wow city-dwellers enough to convince them to make the trek, but for a neighborhood bistro, Glen Ellyn could do much worse. Saragueta shows the signs of a true Frenchie from the start of the meal: Lobster bisque (pictured, foreground) is nearly crimson from its concentrated stock, and the onion soup’s beefy broth with Gruyère-topped croutons could fortify a pro footballer. You could skip the bisque if you’re having the turban of sole (pictured, background); it pops up again as the sauce that surrounds the sole-wrapped disk of lobster mousse, making for an old-school dish created for toothless aristocrats. If seafood mousse isn’t your thing, go deluxe with either of two puff pastry–wrapped classics: pan-seared salmon encroute with a spot-on beurre blanc or the confit duck strudel plated with wine-glazed mushrooms and a peppery demi-glace.
Unfortunately, the mussels and the cassoulet—a dish that should be the mark of a true bistro—disappoint. The mollusks had that not-so-fresh feeling that even the overly heavy, tomato-spiked cream sauce couldn’t mask, and the cassoulet’s duck leg, lamb chop and garlicky sausage showed signs they once were flavorful, but left to dry out and served atop a parched pile of white beans, the only thing we got out of it was dry mouth. Luckily, a bottle from the small (but focused and practical) wine list helped out with that, plus our unfinished entrée meant more room for dessert. When Saragueta wheeled out his triple-chocolate soufflé on a tablecloth-covered cart—smiling just as he had done when delivering nearly every course for each table—it was easy to get caught up in his charms and forgive the midmeal snafus. After a bite of the nearly perfect soufflé, he proved that from the first call to the final bite, personality goes a long way.
|Venue name:||Bistro Monet (CLOSED)||Contact:|
462 N Park Blvd
|Opening hours:||Dinner (closed Mon)|
|Price:||Average main course: $22|
|Do you own this business?|