"I once dated this dude who worked as a trapeze artist in the circus."
"Really, like Ringling Brothers?"
"No it was like one of those traveling carnie things. He was getting really annoying and I wanted to get rid of him, so when he asked me what my bedroom fantasy was, I told him I wanted to dress up like Pluto."
"Like the planet?"
"No, like the Disney character."
"Oh my god. I wondered how you'd dress up like a planet?"
Like any good bistro, Cyrano's located in the bowels of the Wells street canyon in the shadow of Chicago's Merchandise Mart is a cozy affair. Sometimes so cozy, you hear your fellow diner's conversations, like the one above, loud and clear.
Though, on a recent Friday night at about 7:30 p.m., other than our Disney friends, there wasn't much to listen to. As we were dining, chef/owner Didier Durand (pictured) posted a notification that Cyrano's would now be closed for lunch through January in one of the hottest business dining districts in the city. If there was an Eater.com in Chicago (and word is there will be this year), Cyrano's would be on hardcore deathwatch.
This is a lowdown dirty shame. As a clean well lighted place, a warm haven on a below zero blustery Chicago night, Cyrano's is probably Chicago's best bistro. There is no other place in this city where you can score a handful of classic French dishes and heart stopping, stomach filling hearty head to tail style spot on organ meat preparations and a bottle of wine for about a $100.
The shoestring crispy frites here are tossed with a Dracula killing but eminently satisfying dose of garlic, as is the succulent escargot.
Fat lobes of seared sweetbreads are crunchy on the outside, glazed with a sweet mustard cream sauce, and creamy in the middle and served with perfectly roasted and extravagantly tourn&eacoute;ed roasted carrots and assorted root veg.
House baguettes slathered in rich salty olive tapenade infused butter have a nutty crust and a perfect interior chew.
Post foie gras ban, Cyrano's is also one of the last foie speakeasies in town, and their country bread, available only after a thorough personal vetting from the kitchen to ensure you aren't a health inspector, is a molten lobe of seared smoky duck liver draped over a rich batch of pommes purée along with a sweet salt cured torchon round on brioche, and a zingy green side salad studded with crunchy haricot vert.
Most of the wine list featuring a healthy dose off French wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux averages $35-40 a bottle.
Considering all of these facts, it's hard to imagine why there is a dearth of diners. It may be that Cyrano's chef/owner Didier Durand's hardcore pro-foie stance is finally taking a toll. Durand has been public enemy number one since the foie gras ban's descent upon Chicago, and his rebellion has earned him the microscopic scrutiny of the city's health cops. In September, those cops descended on the bistro looking for duck liver. They didn't find any, but they did close the place for a cockroach infestation. Since then, Cyrano's has been floundering.
Based on the quality of the food and the longevity of the restaurant, I tend to believe Durand's protestations that the condo conversion project above the restaurant was to account for the cockroach issue. The kitchen looked spotless to me when I poked my head in the other night.
Based on my recent visit, I urge Chicagoans and visitors to our city alike to get on over to this gem and support Durand, a man who who's been willing to take on our ridiculous alderman, all the while continuing to turn out some of the best classic French comfort food in the city.
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