WHERE: 105 S. York St., Elmhurst
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 4:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday; reserved for special events Sunday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-279-9333, www.cafeamano.com
The concept of a "downtown cafe" can range from rickety outfit with a counter and a couple chairs all the way to a gourmet dining experience that also features cozy outdoor seating. Fortunately for Elmhurst, Café Amano falls into the latter category.
During a recent visit, I was inclined to sit outdoors and get a true cafe experience, but it was just a touch chilly that evening, and my dining companion and I reluctantly opted to eat inside. But while we missed out on the ambience of Elmhurst's thriving open-air experience, we were more than compensated by the exquisitely designed decor indoors.
Everything about the restaurant says, "casual, but elegant," from the tasteful logo on one wall, to the display of wines as you first enter, to the abundant dark wood trim and dramatic ceiling-hung light fixtures. It's an environment where you could easily have a business meeting, take your visiting family, or just grab lunch one day when you're in the mood for something far better than a homemade sandwich.
We started out with the shrimp and artichoke saute from the small plates menu. The artichoke hearts and gigantic Gulf shrimp were sauteed in butter, garlic, white wine and lemon, which made for an incredibly flavorful beginning.
Choosing an entree was tough with all the appealing options. I went for the chicken dijonnaise, and my companion selected the filet mignon. There are also plenty of salads, pastas and seafood options that will have to wait for another day.
My chicken was topped with a generous helping of prosciutto and Gruyere cheese, then smothered with a "whole grain mustard shiitake mushroom cream sauce." The meat was perfectly tender and juicy, and the cavalcade of savory flavors gave me something different to detect in every bite.
My companion was just as pleased with the beef, served with a "shiitake mushroom port wine reduction sauce." The verdict? "Tender and juicy, it cut like butter, and tasted phenomenal."
After such a satisfying, rich meal, some folks might be tempted to stop there, but we pressed on – the dessert menu beckoned. We placed orders for the crème brûlée and the deep-dish apple tart, and were soon greeted by generous helpings of each.
Café Amano also has an extensive wine list, easily more than 70 varieties, and most available by the glass or bottle. And with its terrific location downtown, it's a great option if you also plan to do some window shopping or catch a movie while you're out and about.
I still want to try the outdoor seating, though. That'll have to wait for another visit.
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.
(To view the Mystery Diner's photos taken at Café Amano, go to http://shawurl.com/rqo; visit its website at www.cafeamano.com.)