Mon Ami Gabi: A Warm Journey to Paris

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

As a Francophile, it has been a priority of mine to try as many French restaurants as possible in Chicago.  There are barely any on the West side, and they are all on the Northeast or Downtown part of Chicago.   French food doesn’t have to be expensive but most of the French places in Chicago are expensive, making it much more difficult to enjoy such fine cuisine.

Do not lose all hope though!  Restaurant Week in Chicago enables one to go to restaurants that typically might be unaffordable and try an assortment of their cuisine for a more “relatively” affordable price of $22 for brunch or lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner per person.  There are some restaurants that have mid-range prices where Restaurant Week ends up being more expensive for dinner, there are other places that tend to even out and other restaurants where it is cheaper to go off their restaurant week menu than their regular menu.  Mon Ami Gabi’s Restaurant Week special for dinner was a bit cheaper than their regular menu (depending on what you get).  The restaurant week special did enable one to try an assortment of their desserts, which is not on their regular menu.

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Mushroom Tartare

Mon Ami Gabi is a classic Parisian style Bistro – it is upscale, but not stuffy.  You walk in and are taken by the charm and ambience of a bistro in Paris with their dark wood pillars and accents interspersed with little chalkboards that have seafood specials written in French.  The tan/beige wall color with the darker wood and larger windows provided that cozy, French ambience.  The lighting is dim making it a perfect space for an intimate friend dinner or romantic date.  The service was excellent on all fronts as well, and the individuals serving the water and running food were very fast.  Our server was also on top of everything and went out of her way to make the experience enjoyable for us.

Considering that we went to Mon Ami Gabi for Restaurant Week, we decided to go with the Restaurant Week menu for $44 per person.  It was a “treat yourself” kind of night.  We both ordered a glass of French wine to compliment the meal (“when in France”), and they had a wonderful selection of wine from their rotating daily menu.  I had a glass of the sparkling rosé and my dining companion had the Beaujolais, which was a very mild, red wine.

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French Onion Soup

A complementary warm baked baguette with a sweet, creamy butter, a carrot vinaigrette salad, and a mushroom tartare were served to start off the dining experience.  There is nothing like a warm baguette with fresh butter to start your meal with.  I love French bread and am all about enjoying your carbs if you can.  To cope with the heaviness though, the carrot vinaigrette salad provided some refreshing zest to the heavy bread and mushroom tartare.  The mushroom tartare was served on a little crostini and was earthy and savory.  I appreciated that it was a mushroom tartare since most places tend to do beef or tuna tartare.  I found it original.

For the appetizers, we ordered French Onion Soup and Escargot.  We told the server we were going to share the appetizers so she brought out two different bowls of French Onion Soup for us!  That was very thoughtful of her.  The French Onion soup was basically your gooey, delicious gruyere cheese party on top of the moist, soaked up bread, broth, and caramelized onions.  I only let myself eat this a few times a year and it was worth it.

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Baked Escargot

The baked escargot was also extremely satisfying and tasty dish served with a garlic, basil, herb butter.  The escargot texture was perfectly firm and soaked up that heavenly butter, which reminded me of a delightful pesto sauce.  I used the bread to soak it up because that butter should not go to waste!  It was my dining companion’s first time eating escargot and it was a success!  This is a great place to try your first escargot since they prepare it perfectly.

At this point, we were already getting full, but when in Paris, you have to live up to the food challenge.  For our entrées, we ordered the Salmon and Casareccia Pasta.  Both of these were jaw-droppingly delicious.  The Salmon filet had a flaky texture with subtle flavors over a delicate beurre blanc sauce.  It was served with roasted fingerling potatoes.  I think they could have seasoned the potatoes more, but I know they were going for a light, delicate flavor.  The menu description said it was served with a caviar créme fraîche.  There was no créme fraîche (which is fine with me because I don’t really like it), but I did ask the server about the caviar because I didn’t see it on my plate.  She said it was very small and served in the beurre blanc sauce.  It didn’t taste like caviar, nor did it pop in my mouth like caviar so I’m not sure what happened with that.  The caviar issue is my only complaint with the dining experience.

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Salmon with potatoes

The Casereccia Pasta was exquisite.  It consisted of a wide variety of mushrooms such as oyster and maitake served in a light truffle oil sauce with hints of lemon.  The truffle oil was a prominent flavor in the dish, which was very much to my liking.  The poached egg in the middle added a delicate creaminess to the light, truffle sauce and the Gran Padano cheese contributed a saltiness to the perfectly composed pasta dish.

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Casareccia Pasta

You can’t enjoy the restaurant week menu without immersing yourself in the desserts at a French restaurant so regardless of how full we were, we still had them.  Their dessert was a combination of their profiterole (pastry with vanilla ice cream in the middle with chocolate generously drizzled on top), vanilla créme brûlée, and chocolate mousse.  I went into a food coma because of this dessert trio, but it was well worth it.  The  double chocolate fudge melting on the ice cream, the thick, decadent chocolate mousse with the little chocolate balls, and the crusty top of the vanilla créme brûlée made me an extremely happy human being.  What an experience!

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Chocolate Mousse to the left, Profiterole to the right and vanilla creme brûlée in front

I left Mon Ami Gabi stuffed with leftovers, delighted, and excited for the next time I get to set foot in there.  They have so many other delicious items on their menu that I’d like to try.  But it’ll have to wait for a celebration or special occasion as it is a pricey restaurant in Lincoln Park.

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