Rustic House- More Deliciousness from Gem Bistro Guys

Update: It was so good, I took a camera crew back with me.


I could hardly wait to try Rustic House when I first read about it, and I didn’t.  Wait, that is.  I convinced a girlfriend of mine to try it out with me on the second day it was open.  Risky, I know.  But hey, I wanted to check it out and since I’m a restaurant person, I understand that there are kinks to be worked out.  Nothing is exactly as you expect it to be upon opening a new place.  This is why I have a policy of always giving a new restaurant a second chance after a few months, regardless of the first dining experience.

But Rustic House is in no need of a second “chance”.  The first round was so good that I’d return without hesitation for another meal even tomorrow.

Ok, so it’s not like it was totally perfect, but it was pretty amazing for the second night.  And I’m sure that the minor issues they had, all technical stuff, not in concept, have long been worked out.

Here’s what we had:

Wood-grilled octopus with tomato confit, picholine olives and charred greens.  It was wonderfully balanced:  a little bitter from the greens, sweet from the toms and salty & earthy from the olives.  The octopus itself was tender and well-charred, lending a little smoke and crunch.  Yum!  I could have this for dinner over and over.


Rustic House Chicago


Next was handmade papardelle pasta with veal cheek ragout, tomatoes and shaved pecorino cheese.  The veal was deep & rich and coated the nicely al dente pasta with its sticky goodness while the toms gave a hint of sweetness and the pecorino brightened things up with its pungent saltiness.  *Slurp*  Yes, please!  This is what you hope you have at least one piece of crusty bread left in the basket for.  I don’t think I could let even the smallest drop of that veal love go to waste.  In fact, I hope someone in the back gets to wipe those pans clean with some bread, too!  Lucky dog…


Rustic House Chicago


Then the monkfish.  The only time I like monkfish is when someone else has cleaned and prepared it.  It just might be the most disgusting looking thing on the earth yet you’d never know it from this plate.  The chef has made it beautiful and, dare I say, delicious looking!   It’s wrapped in pancetta and sits atop an orange-fennel bouillabaisse (fennel still in tact for crunch) and is complimented with a tiny crostino dolloped with a black olive tapanade.  The saffron really makes the color pop, doesn’t it?


Rustic House Chicago


We had to get our veggies, too, so we ordered a side of broccoli from the nice selection of sides.  I, for one, really appreciate it when a chef gives the some options for something green, which he has done here.  Others included sauteed spinach, Brussels sprouts and a corn brulee (which I’m not sure counts as a vegetable but I’m sure would be delicious!).  The broccoli was prepared with garlic and RPF.  You know… it was broccoli.


Rustic House Chicago


And now for pie!  A flaky pastry crust with brandies cherries, amaretto anglaise, candied almonds and vanilla ice cream.  This is where we saw the first technical error.  Clearly the oven temp needed to be adjusted because the top of the crust was the most perfect golden brown but inside the folds, we were left with dough.  The dessert was promptly swapped out with apologies for a second attempt, which was better but still not quite there.  We didn’t have the heart to tell ’em.  We weren’t in the least put off by it since everything else was so wonderful and we knew that, undoubtedly, they’d work it out on their own.


Rustic House Chicago


The only other blip we saw the entire time was the fact that there was no offering from the ‘Daily Rotisserie’.  Apparently, the chef didn’t like how it had turned out and, therefore, 86’d it from the menu.  Admirable.

I guess the thing I really like about Rustic House is that nothing was out-of-the-box crazy as far as flavor combinations, but not boring either, and execution is taken very seriously.  Over and over we saw classic flavor combinations reworked into (mostly) perfectly executed dishes.  Cooking techniques, seasoning, textures and presentation are all right on.  Beautiful and delicious.

Service couldn’t have been anything less than flawless since every member of the spankin’-new staff was present.  Actually, I take that back.  It could have been a junk show, as many restaurant openings are, regardless of the number of people on the floor, but it wasn’t.  It was great.

The ambiance, too, was delightful; as warm and inviting as the staff and the food.


The Short Version (Out of 10)…

Food:  9

Service:  9

Ambiance:  9

Overall impression:  9

Would I go back?

Yup.  Can’t wait!


Rustic House on Urbanspoon

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