Chez Joel Restaurant Review - A Chicago Restaurant You Should Know

Chez Joel is cozy and romantic


A friend of mine could not stop raving about Chez Joel.  She learned of it from her daughter and her fiancé who think this is the best restaurant in Chicago.  In fact, they celebrated their engagement there. It is a little treasure that the Chicago Splash review team of Kay, Bart, Barbara and Leon might not have discovered without this recommendation.

After a struggle through traffic on a rainy night, we turned onto West Taylor, past the UIC campus, toward Little Italy and there was Chez Joel.  Entering, we were aware of its calm understated elegance.  It is small, cozy and intimate and as stated on its website, very romantic. The website www.chezjoelbistro.com is noteworthy and I recommend looking at it. The weather prevented eating out on the lovely enclosed patio but the ambiance inside was enhanced by the vocal music that was reminiscent of France. Our evening was a complete dining experience, with excellent food, wine, service, and conversation.  Food was presented with a flourish, well paced and appealing to the eye. The restaurant opened in 1999 and, according to Amed Kazouini, general manager, entrepreneur, it is a family business. Chef de Cuisine, Joel Kazouini is the chef-owner and the restaurants namesake, and we very much enjoyed Soufiane Kazouini, our charming server. The traditional menu items are fixed but the specials and desserts change frequently as does the blend of items comprising the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise.

Amed Kazouini welcomes guests


We thought the wine list was to be commended. Its offerings were numerous from France and California mostly and reasonably priced by the bottle with many available by the glass and there was also dessert wine and single malt Scotch available as well as beer.

Leon enjoyed Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Bart Chateau Malbat Bordeaux, which he found full- bodied and fresh, not oaky and Kay liked the delicate flavor of the Sancerre.

"Poulet Ooh-la-la"


A special pate called “Poulet Ooh-la-la” began the meal. It was rich and delicious.

Appetizers:  

Kay ordered the Salade Panache (Mesclun mixed greens with vinaigrette maison).  She commented that the salad was very fresh and the dressing perfect.

Salad Panache


Bart chose Escargots Farcis Au Beurre a la Bourguignone (French snails with garlic butter, Pernod and herbed butter crumbs).  The snails, which are from the East Coast were, according to Bart, buttery with a trace of garlic and not overpowering.  He explained that snails have little flavor but absorb what they are cooked in.

Escargots Farcis Au Beurre a la Bourguignone


Barbara selected the special Salade de du Chef (Assortment of Boston lettuce with artichoke heart, grape tomatoes, red onion, Port Salud cheese tossed in Raspberry wine vinaigrette and garnished with black sesame seeds).  The textures and flavors were very pleasant and satisfying and unusual.  The cheese was especially noticeable and added texture and flavor.

Salad Panache


Leon found the Coquilles Saint Jacques aux Poireaux sauce Beurre Blanc (Sea Scallops pan seared with leeks, dill, lemon beurre blanc and garnished with Tobikko) appealing and was greatly rewarded.  They were huge and delicious. He said they melt in your mouth, the texture is pleasant, and they were cooked to perfection.

Coquilles Saint Jacques aux Poireaux


Entrees:

Kay liked the Saumon Grille Sauce de Mangue (Grilled filet of salmon, served with julienne of vegetables, brussel sprouts, potato tournee in mango papaya sauce and garnished with seaweed salad) from the special menu.  She loved the blend of flavors and how moist it was.

Saumon Grille Sauce de Mangue


Bart also found an item from the special menu, Carre d Agneau Rotis a la Fleur de Menthe (Rack of New Zealand Lamb roasted, Served in Mint au Jus, with wild mushroom, baby carrots, asparagus and saffron mashed potatoes) that he completely enjoyed.  He said it was delicious and just perfect, rare but not too rare and he thought the wine reduction sauce embellished the flavor.

Carre d Agneau Rotis a la Fleur de Menthe


Barbara was rewarded when she requested a vegetarian dish.  Suddenly, Chef Joel prepared a plate of vegetables unequaled in flavor.  It was also beautiful.  It wasn’t named on the menu but to her, it was veggies magnifique.

Barbara's "Veggies Magnifique"


Leon was advised to try the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise since this is one of the restaurants’ signature dishes. He thought it was really good and especially liked the light and flavorful broth and was very impressed with the langoustines. The rest of the group enjoyed hearing him delight each time he discovered an unexpected ingredient such as sea bass, salmon or clams.

Bouillabaisse Marseillaise


Dessert:

The group somehow managed to find room for dessert but only two.  Kay and Bart split the Moelleux Au Chocolat (Calibeau chocolate fondant served warm with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis).  They thought the dark rich chocolate flavors were perfect and it was a bit like a moist filled cupcake.  Barbara and Leon opted for the Crème Brulee (Traditional French custard with caramelized sugar), which they thought was perfection; smooth, light, rich with a delicious crunchy topping.

Creme Broulee and Moelleux Aux Chocolat


Leon completed the meal with Longmorn, a classic Speyside single malt Scotch whiskey that is fragrant, with a nutty, sweet taste.  These reviewers believe that Chez Joel is a great restaurant for all occasions and hope to return soon.

Soufiane and Mariam


Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
Dinner: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4:30-11 p.m. Friday; 5-11 p.m. Saturday; 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday

Chez Joel
1119 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60607
312-226-6479
www.chezjoelbistro.com

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