Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chant and Repeat: 6 Months Later

posted by chicago pop

The photo of Chant's interior above -- which doesn't do justice to its calming charm -- is stolen from Time Out magazine, since by the time we had eaten our meals, my dining partner and I realized we hadn't smuggled a camera in to bootleg the whole experience. Next time, we promise, it will be on YouTube.

So we'll breath deep, exhale, and get to the point:

The prices at Chant are much more in line with the quality of the food than previously -- which is to say, no longer overpriced -- and the menu is solid. If you want hard-core Asian cuisine of any national or regional variety, you'll probably find Chant on the bland side. If you want squat-and-gobble Thai or Chinese, for which there is no lack in Hyde Park, you'll probably feel ripped off.

If, however, you want an awesome vibe -- there is no better date or couples restaurant in Hyde Park -- with gracious service, cozy seating, in-house liquor, together with well-done, varied albeit somewhat bland offerings of Asian fusion, you'll be relatively happy. We both were.

Six months after our first visit, the menu was almost unrecognizable, and neither of the entrées we ordered the first time around were available. The same is true, so we were told, of the chef, who was brought in a few months after Chant opened in fall 2007 to shape up the original, faltering, menu.

To begin with we shared an order of seafood shu mai in a lime dipping sauce, which struck me as unremarkable. It needs to be tweaked.

For her entrée, my partner took in the snapper with honey miso glaze, which was cooked artfully and presented well. With a side of carrots and sugar snap peas, along with some potato slices, it left her with no complaints. The sauce was reported to be a little salty, usually a sin to the East Asian palate, but we agreed that such is the nature of miso broth.

I thought I would put the kitchen to the test with beef tenderloin and so went for the Szechwan filet mignon, the restaurant's big ticket plate. I was not disappointed. The cut was choice and the meat was cooked as ordered (rare), with an understated char of peppercorn seasoning that linked up nicely with the equally light hoisin broth.

The highlights of this dish, however -- given that slabs of beef must generally stand on their own -- were the sides of wasabi mashed potatoes sake-sauteed baby bok choi, both of which were enjoyable counterpoints to the uniformity of the beef and helped keep up my momentum as I made it through the latter.

My partner ordered a side of white rice with her snapper, but it never came to the table. The waiter was very gracious about the mistake, and took it off our tab right away. Apart from this, we agreed that the service was fine -- not too cloying, but friendly and professional. Nothing objectionable, and certainly above the mean for the neighborhood.

Menu for 2

Hors d'oeuvres
Seafood Shu-Mai

Miso Glazed Red Snapper
Szechuan Crusted Beef Filet Mignon

Chant Mojito

Tab (Tip not included)

Chant, 1509 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, Illinois. Hours may vary.

773-324-9994 (Fax)
Sun-Mon Noon-10
Tu-Th 11:30-Midnight
Fri-Sat 11:30-1:00


Zig & Lou said...

"squat-and-gobble", you paint a picture with words Chicago-pop. "squat-and-gobble" sounds like a bad quick-serve franchise concept. It is actually no worse than "Quaker Steak and Lube", which is a real restaurant chain.

chicago pop said...

Steak-fries and an oil change? Sounds like it might play well in Hyde Park, as long as they can do foreign cars. As for my concept, make that: "squat, gobble, and repeat."

Lilithcat said...

I was incredibly disappointed by my first (and likely only) visit to Chant. It was 8:30 p.m. No tables were available, so I was seated at a small counter area opposite the bar. I thought this would be fine, but later discovered that it wasn't deep enough comfortably to accommodate the dishes.

About 10-15 minutes after I was seated, a perky little waitress came by to greet me and say, "How are you?" "I'd be better if someone brought me a menu", I responded. She appeared quite startled at this concept, but scurried away to find one.

Once I ordered my food, it came fairly promptly, but the curry wasn't nearly as good as it was at the old Noodles, Etc., very bland and unremarkable, and so was overpriced.

Dining over, I asked for my bill, and once again had an extended wait for it to be picked up and to receive my change. (Perhaps Miss Perky really thought I was going to leave her a nearly 50% tip?)

The place was also extremely noisy.

I may give it one more shot on the chance that I hit an off-night, but I'd better find significant improvement, or it gets scratched off my list.