We finally got our act together and made a reservation – rather than just trying to randomly stop by and get a table (always a fail) – for Le Colonial. The restaurant, with its sexy, dark French Vietnamese décor and inventive dishes, has long been one of my Chicago favorites, and we had been looking forward to going there again.
But our most recent dining experience left a bitter aftertaste of underwhelm. To start, we were sat in an afterthought of a table, wedged between the entrance, a wall, and all-to-close neighboring diners. Did we need to be someone, I asked myself, to score a proper seat? Service was abysmal from start to finish. It took at least 15 minutes for a waiter to take our drink order, the time between courses dragged on (all the more because we were starving), and it was ages before the waiter finally arrived with our check.
The food was also subpar. I ordered one of my favorites, the Ca Nuong La Chuoi, which is a grilled trout served in a steamed banana leaf with oyster mushrooms and cellophane noodles on top. In a foodie world where presentation is everything, this dish typically shines. However, on our most recent trip, the unusually small portion was served on a sad little dinner plate and the banana leaf did not, as it had always in the past, even cover the fish inside. Such a faux pas is perhaps acceptable at your run of the mill restaurant, but not at expensive Le Colonial, where the dining experience should be just as important as the food. Adding insult to injury, the plump and flavorful mushrooms I so looked forward to when ordering this dish were few and far between, replaced instead by more noodles. And the trout was dry. Were others having the same experience, I wondered, or was this meal saved specially for our nobody table scrunched against the wall?
My husband’s meal was similarly disappointing. He ordered the Vit Quay, marinated roast duck. While duck is a fatty meat, his was downright greasy, reminding me of fast food fries that are too quickly cooked. Under the grease, the duck was dry, leaving me to wonder if the chef was somehow trying to make up for a poorly cooked dish with more butter on the outside. Both our dishes were served cold.
So, was there any saving grace? For starters, I know Le Colonial can do better, so I will likely be back although certainly not any time soon. They also had one of my favorite wines, the Luigi Bosca Malbec, so at least I was able to drown my sorrows in a spectacular drink (a reflection of a good sommelier, however, and not good food or service). And my husband enjoyed the light and sweet banana tapioca pudding, so I suppose that can be considered a plus in an otherwise mediocre experience.
Try Le Colonial, with a reservation under a recognizable name, at 937 N. Rush Street.
Filed under: Classic Restaurant Reviews