"The Flavor of Vietnam in Chicago"
Pasteur Restaurant has long been known as a great place for Vietnamese food with French influences. Several incarnations later, the restaurant is on a busy section of Broadway in the Edgewater area of Chicago. While the neighborhood has its rough edges, the building housing Pasteur is flat-out beautiful, even more so inside. The dining room evokes luxury, opulence, and grandeur, while retaining a comfortable edge that makes one feel at ease. Rattan chairs, banquettes, tall bar stools -- seating to fit every whim. The neutral color palette keeps the emphasis on the food and diners.
Maybe it was the food we ordered or perhaps the French influence has been tamped down, but it's not overtly apparent, either in the food or the wine list; if anything, in the decor.
Really a nicely thought out wine list, with a good variety and nothing overly expensive. We enjoyed an Ehrhart NV Cremant d'Alsace (interesting smoky component, perfect with the appetizers), the Chateau des Karantes 2001 Rouge (Syrah-based, not to my taste accompanying the food, but a beautiful blend nonetheless), and the L'Augardiere 2010 Chardonnay (citrus flavors just right with the entrees).
Can't have too many appetizers, especially when they're all so tasty -- we ordered 4 and liked every one: Rau Cai Tam Bot (Vegetable Tempura, rolled in a creamy rice batter, deep-fried and served with a sweet and sour mango sauce); Goi Cuon Dau Hu (Tofu Summer Roll, fresh rice paper roll filled with fresh mango, avocado, cucumber and green plantain served with a tamarind dipping sauce); Cha Gio (Vegetable Egg Rolls with cellophane noodles, jicama, woodear mushrooms and taro served with sweet and sour sauce); We also ordered fried vegetable Dumplings served with a light ginger and scallion soy dipping sauce. Unfortunately the ones that came out were steamed, but still our favorite appetizer. The thing that was noticeable in each dish was the incredible freshness and crispness of the vegetables.
The Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup - rice noodles with tender pieces of chicken in chicken stock, seasoned with browned herbs and served with fresh herbs and chili paste hoisin sauce never showed up, but since we had plenty of food, no worries.
Though they sounded different from each other, the Dau Hu Xao Sa-te (Tofu Sa-te, crispy tofu sautéed with a caramelized glaze of baked dried red peppers, onions and garlic) and the Mi Hoac Hu Tieu Xao Rau Cai (Rice Noodles sautéed with an assortment of vegetables) ended up tasting somewhat similar. Both were very good, but in the future, I'd order one or the other, probably the one with the amazingly tasty rice noodles. For an alternative, I'd try the Dau Hu Xao Rau Cai Nuoc Coc Dua (sautéed tofu and vegetables in coconut milk baked in a claypot), which sounded great, but no small plate option relegated it to a follow-up visit. Laima ordered a special of the day, the Duck Breast with Asparagus, Onions, Mushrooms, and Red Peppers, really tasty, both on its own and with the optional brown rice. As with the appetizers, everything tasted fresh from the market.
Deep-fried bananas with green tea ice cream drizzled with strawberry and chocolate sauce tasted like dessert tempura, with the green tea ice cream stealing the show - this could easily be served on its own. Their flourless chocolate cake was incredibly dense, chocolaty, out of this world tasty -- for me, the accompanying red sauce was a distraction, the cake definitely stands on its own!
Pasteur is worth driving to the end of Lake Shore Drive, for its good food and wine, its friendly service, and its beautiful design. In warmer weather, make sure to sit outside on the patio -- our one regret with our visit was that it was too cold to enjoy this meal al fresco.
Carry out and delivery are also available.
Disclaimer: I was comped this meal for review purposes -- all opinions are my own.
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