Mystery Diner
May 1, 2013 • 12:04:01 p.m.

Mystery Diner: Mécénat serves up bistro charm in Western Springs

By MYSTERY DINER - msleditorial@shawmedia.com

Midnight Sandwich is a variation on the classic Cuban. (Suburban Life Media)

Mécénat

ADDRESS: 821 W. Burlington Ave., Western Springs

HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday

DRESS CODE: Nice casual

CONTACT: www.mecenatbistro.com, 708-246-8668

A warm bistro environment with decor nods to Europe is the setting for Mécénat's eclectic menu exploring global culinary influences.

An enticing aroma greeted us at the door of the Western Springs restaurant on a recent Sunday afternoon, and while we perused the beer and wine lists, the server brought us deliciously crusty french bread, a simple, but great first impression. The wine list is extensive, given that Mécénat (pronounced: ma-say-nah) also operates retail wine sales several nights a week.

The soup of the day was butternut squash with apple, but we opted to share a salad of baby spinach with the unusual twist of honey jalapeño vinaigrette – not too spicy, but definitely a shakeup from the norm. It combined fennel and creamy chunks of avocado with a colorful interplay of grape tomato halves as garnish, along with bite-size fritters, whose crisp exterior gave way to warm goat cheese. Outstanding.

"Completely different, and there's a zip to the dressing," raved my dining companion.

The entrees tempted with Grilled Alaskan Halibut with soy glaze, baby bok choy and wild mushroom dumplings; Mushroom Stuffed Filet with port wine sauce, garlic smashed potatoes, Brussels sprout leaves and bacon; and Stuffed Portabella Mushroom with eggplant, spinach, mozzarella, tomato and artichoke hearts topped with Parmesan cheese and balsamic glaze. Entrees range from $12 to $28.

My companion was intrigued by the Midnight Sandwich – actually a variation of the Cuban – prepared with pork, chicken, asparagus and housemade pickle on melt-in-your-mouth ciabatta.

He paired it with a tasty Lagunitas DogTown pale ale. Available on draft, it was served in a wide-mouth jar for a fun presentation.

The accompanying french fries are my favorite kind: thin and crispy, served hot and fresh. The perfect guilty pleasure was prepared with a sprinkle of herbs. The family at a neighboring table selected what was obviously a familiar hit: a double order of the truffle-infused fries.

From the small plate menu, I picked the beef sliders on pretzel bun, expecting a burger, but the trio turned out to be sliced beef, nicely flavored by grilled sweet red peppers and caramelized onions, and given a little zing with horseradish cream and a dip into the generous serving of au jus. Another guilty pleasure was dipping the last of the french bread.

Too full for dessert, we sadly had to forgo our knowledgeable server's recommendations: an in-house prepared strudel, a brownie specialty, and the creme brulee she called "fantastic," whose flavor changes weekly.

Displayed around the room are framed photographs of Western Springs taken by the owner's daughter, Mécénat's manager. Hand-stenciling and faux stone designs on walls conjure a bistro getaway, and a divider separates the dining room from the bar, with live music featured weekends. In homage to the wines, sleek sconces mimic the curve of magnum bottles.

The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.

(Visit www.mecenatbistro.com.)


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