Sugar Rush: Pain Perdu from Nellcôte

Sugar Rush

Reviews of desserts in Chicago.


[Photograph: Lindsey Becker]

I'm going to try to restrain myself here because the idea of adding any accolades to a place with the level of buzz that Nellcôte has is kind of painful. But I'm just going to say it. Their French toast is heaven on earth.

Yes, I know, my eyes are rolling too. "Oh sure," you may be saying. "Now Nellcôte has great French toast too? But look at that picture; you get three little rectangles no one would classify as 'toast' and there isn't even any syrup. You can't call that French toast!"

This may be true, but Nellcôte gets around this possible critique by calling it Pain Perdu ($18 as part of their prix fixe brunch menu). They even take their French chateau concept a step further by topping it with "Crème Chantilly," which is just vanilla-enhanced whipped cream en Français. But they could call this cream bread, and I'd still take every single out-of-towner here for the next 10 years.

The texture of these house-made logs of brioche is the stuff dreams are made of. The crust is crispy and substantial and satisfyingly shatters as your teeth close around it. Yet it willingly yields to the pressure of the side of your fork to give way to a tender, airy custard interior. It's toast transformed. It's buttery, supple, crackly happiness. When you need to search so hard to find a critique that all you come up with is "the peach could be a touch softer," you've missed the point. This thing doesn't need any peaches anyway (and in fact, the menu lists strawberries and rhubarb so the peach can easily be written off as a distracting experiment), though I do have to concede that they up the sweet gooeyness factor by a multiple of 10.

I just used the word gooeyness. I'm officially under the influence of a serious French toast stupor, and I couldn't be more pleased about it.


833 Randolph, Chicago, IL 60607 (map)

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