Cooking French food is one of my favorite things to do. But I do it very infrequently. To do it right, in the classic way, in the way we were taught by St. Julia, is rather time-consuming.
Now, there's a new kind of French cooking gaining favor: casual bistro or brasserie dining.
A number of these simpler French restaurants have opened in Chicago over the past six months, among them Brasserie Maison, Brasserie by LM…and Troquet.
Troquet is located right off the Brown Line on Montrose. From our house in Oak Park, it's a total of three blocks walked (2 blocks to the Green Line on Ridgeland; one block to the restaurant from the Montrose Brown Line stop).
We liked everything we had at Troquet, and I ordered some things that, usually, disappoint me so much that I frequently fear ordering them…and so don't.
Mussels have been one of those menu items that are too often mediocre and frequently not worth the work to pull each little guy from his shell. The ones we had at Troquet were beautiful, not too big, very tender, plumped with subtle oceanic flavor in a traditional shallot-bejeweled broth that we kept wanting to slurp with a spoon and soak up in a bread slice even as our entries arrived.
I've never had duck confit as good as I make at home. If you've never had it, duck confit is the bird slow-cooked in its own succulent fat. Originally a way to preserve the less-than-desirable cuts (meaning, anything other than breast), confiting the duck legs and thighs can actually preserve the meat, unrefrigerated, for a considerable period of time. Troquet's version of duck confit was not as good as mine, but it is probably the best version of this classic, though casual, French dish I've had in a very long time.
In keeping with the casual nature of this place, the prices are very reasonable: under $10 for appetizers; under $15 for entrees.
Troquet is worth the trip from Oak Park.
1834 W. Montrose
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