CHICAGO -- The Blanchard was my pick for Chicago's best new restaurant in 2016, but it fell off the radar a bit when the original chef left. But the new chef, Ryan Burns, has the restaurant doing terrific food, in a slightly different direction.
The beautiful dining room is nicely appointed with colorful abstract art, and the windows are framed with shutters and cafe curtains. Past the gleaming open kitchen you'll find a separate salon, a nice place for a pre- or post-dining cocktail.
Global influence is evident in the snapper crudo, something you wouldn't necessarily expect in a French restaurant, certainly not with avocado and espelette pepper. Then there's burrata cheese, coated with toasted sesame and furikake seasoning, served with naan bread dusted with togarashi. You can't get much more global than that.
But there's still plenty of French on the menu. Parisienne-style gnocchi comes with thick pieces of king crab and a broth that mimics bouillabaisse flavors; crispy chicken is almost invisible between sheets of fried kale and smoked potato puree; and roasted carrots with cardamom tuiles are seasoned with Vadouvan, a French curry blend. Salmon, in a barigoule of artichoke and Delicata squash, is a perfect expression of clean, simple ingredients enhanced by a complex sauce.
Desserts include a classic chocolate pot de crème, which the chef tops with candied brazil nuts, freeze-dried and candied pineapple and kapache beer gelee; and an inventive modern-looking dessert of pink, beet-flavored meringue, kiwi sorbet and coconut-lime dust.
I give The Blanchard, 1935 North Lincoln Park West, three stars. This is terrific, uniquely interpreted food by a chef who clearly knows what he's doing.