Les Nomades

If pedigree means anything to the success of a restaurant, then it explains Les Nomades perch atop the list of Chicago restaurants. Owner Mary Beth Liccioni and her husband Chef Roland spent a portion of their career working with acclaimed chef Jean Banchet at Le Francais in Wheeling and later bought the restaurant from Banchet. A 70’s dinner I enjoyed at Le Francais remains the meal against which all others are measured.

Housed in a gorgeous brownstone, steps from Michigan Avenue, Les Nomades, like Le Grenouille in New York, is part of a dwindling breed of haute French restaurants in major cities. Let’s hope they continue on because this is a dining experience no one should miss. The softly lit dining rooms, one with a fireplace upstairs, are decorated in shades of gold and beige with hardwood floors, stunning floral arrangements and extraordinary artwork. This is dining as it should be.

The terrific staff appears to float around the room and is at once attentive and unobtrusive. There is no pretension here, but warm and personable service.

Here’s a sampling of his exquisite menu, appetizers: herb roasted Maine lobster, fines herbes gnocchi, English peas, summer truffle and roasted veal sweetbreads, Spanish chorizo, smoked paprika and potato; entrees: lobster ragoût, preserved Meyer lemon, Cognac and roasted venison loin, Hubbard squash, compressed apple, sherry gastrique; desserts: classic soufflés, Grand Marnier, lemon, raspberry, hazelnut or passion fruit, warm chocolate tart with raspberries, white coffee bean ice cream, vanilla froth and chocolate sauce and fresh apple tart with green apple sorbet.

The wine list is a recipient of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. There’s nearly 20 wines by the glass and an excellent selection of half-bottles, which is a way to enjoy both a red and a white with different courses. Surprisingly for a restaurant of this stature, there are plenty of choices of full bottles in the $50 range.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: May be the most romantic restaurant in Chicago

AAA Four Diamond Award
Wine Spectator Award

An “oasis of civility” for “grown-ups”, Roland Liccioni’s Streeterville “institution” offers “exceptional” French haute cuisine “without trendy gimmicks” complemented by a “superb wine list” and “white-glove service”; an “exquisite townhouse” setting with “luxurious Parisian decor” and floral arrangements adds to the reasons it’s perfect for a “celebration” – or just a “vacation from the present” that “justifies the cost”; P.S. jackets suggested. ZAGAT