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  Vie - World Class in the West
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  • Vie - World Class in the West

    Post #1 - August 16th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Post #1 - August 16th, 2007, 11:40 pm Post #1 - August 16th, 2007, 11:40 pm
    Image

    Sure, I spend a little time thinking about what to nominate as this approaches. Last year, I had a hard time thinking of a place to nominate, and Mike's comments that maybe there really weren't enough deserving spots seemed like they might have a grain of truth to them. But this year I can think of 10, easy, so I guess maybe that was just a brief down cycle.

    I don't want to waste superlatives on a place whose food is all the superlative you need. Go every couple of months and you can watch the seasons play out on the plate. And like any great artist, Paul's touch is almost invisible, it just seems like the ingredients shine on their own, so full of flavor, naturally bursting with it.

    But of course his touch is there in all of it - the selection of the ingredients, the decision on how to prepare, combine, season, the exquisite technique.

    Great - yeah I think I covered that.

    Neighborhood - Western Springs? Well, because of all the family roots. The whole thing is a family operation in a way that no other place I know of at this level is. Father-in-law manages, they live just over by there, wife and kids come by at times. Yup, the neighborhood thing is covered.

    And as for the restaurant, I have been lucky enough to see this one from its beginning, a little gawky and uncoordinated at first, but now a silky smooth operation, doing just about everything right every time.

    Damned good, even great, pretty much makes the whole can haute be GNR-worthy question beside the point, Vie.

    Vie
    4471 Lawn Ave.
    Western Springs, IL 60558
    708-246-2082
    Last edited by dicksond on August 17th, 2007, 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #2 - August 16th, 2007, 11:42 pm
    Post #2 - August 16th, 2007, 11:42 pm Post #2 - August 16th, 2007, 11:42 pm
    Agreed.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #3 - August 17th, 2007, 12:59 am
    Post #3 - August 17th, 2007, 12:59 am Post #3 - August 17th, 2007, 12:59 am
    Vie is phenomenal -- and the epitome of a GNR -- in my opinion. It's not only a great restaurant for its neighborhood, but it would be a great restaurant in any neighborhood and it's the kind of restaurant that you wish was in your own neighborhood. But this is also one of the top restaurants in town, period.

    There's something at Vie for nearly everyone who loves food, which is not to say that it panders. Far from it. The distinctive fare being put out by chef Virant and company speaks to fine-dining fans and farmers' market devotees alike. Vie is a restaurant for fans of truthful cooking, where nearly every element of every dish has been thoughtfully and imaginatively conceived -- and prepared carefully, by hand. There are no shortcuts taken at Vie.

    There is a sensibility to Vie's food which comforts and dazzles all at once. Its ever-evolving menu embraces and showcases the bounty of the seasons through the use of fresh, mostly-local ingredients. But the menu also reflects chef's masterful understanding of the bittersweet limitations of seasonality. Vie's focus on pickling, preserving, canning, curing and smoking puts it in a class by itself and reminds us that while the seasons will always pass, there can be great delight in a February cherry or an August ramp. If it's true that cooking "is our most civilized act", as Betty Fussell once wrote, no restaurant exemplifies it more than Vie.

    I heartily agree with this nomination. We're lucky to have Vie and those who live near it are exceptionally so. It's an inviting and completely unpretentious restaurant that serves delicious, distinctive food; food that takes us -- and our imaginations -- on a journey while it satisfies us on many levels.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #4 - August 21st, 2007, 5:30 pm
    Post #4 - August 21st, 2007, 5:30 pm Post #4 - August 21st, 2007, 5:30 pm
    As David Hammond knows, Vie did not impress me on my initial visit. What impressed me, what allowed me to give Vie and second chance, was a very (very) extended tour that Chef Virant and his staff gave David and myself after our dinner. I was in love.

    Luckily, my next and next and next and next... (I think I've been there about 10 times in the last two years) were better than that first meal. Sometimes, I get a dish that does not make me swoon, but I've never had a meal where the plus's don't outweigh.

    There is so many things that Vie excels at. First, obviously, they are fully, wholly committed to local, and such, their ingredients are outstanding. Still, as a recent meal at L'Etoile in Madison showed me, it takes more than just raw ingredients. The cooks at Vie have a deft touch. I love the way they fry, grill. Moreover, the plates are always fully interesting, the right accents, sauces, accompaniments, especially the pickles. Finally, I just darn appreciate the work at Vie. They think about their food. Recipes often seem straight from vintage books, or they figure out how to make their own this or that (I still need the herring that Ronnie Suburban got). Vie, for me, is as close to ideal as a restaurant can be.

    Thanks for the nomination, Dickson!
  • Post #5 - August 24th, 2007, 6:46 am
    Post #5 - August 24th, 2007, 6:46 am Post #5 - August 24th, 2007, 6:46 am
    In a thread on Site Chat about what makes a high end place worthy of a GNR, a comment was made about stratospheric pricing, and Vie was referenced. This is actually another thing that makes Vie special - it is not that expensive, and is absolutely a great deal for what you get.

    If one shows some restraint (salad, entree, glass of wine), it is quite easy to have a wonderful meal for less than $50, and possibly quite a bit less. If one splurges, it is difficult to spend over $100. While this is surely not cheap by any means, in a world where you can have an orgy of overcooked meat and an extravagant salad bar at any number of churrascarias for $100 or more with a glass of wine, it constitutes a good deal. Whether it is Vie's intention to make fine dining relatively affordable, or just how it worked out given their cost structure, I cannot say.

    But it is worth noting that Vie is not only arguably one of the best restaurants around here, but it is also the most reasonably priced, probably by a wide margin, of the possible contenders. (Okay, maybe Schwa puts the lie to that claim, but it looked good at first...)
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #6 - August 24th, 2007, 10:14 am
    Post #6 - August 24th, 2007, 10:14 am Post #6 - August 24th, 2007, 10:14 am
    When you're being served ingredients that are identified by their origins (e.g. Wettstein's, Nichols Farm, Kinnikinnick Farm, etc.), you're going to pay more for them. I feel that this is not only 'worth it' but that it's an important part of what makes Vie the distinctive destination that it has become.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #7 - August 26th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Post #7 - August 26th, 2007, 10:56 pm Post #7 - August 26th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Vie is the place--more than Alinea or Avenues or Trotter's or Tru or...--that I rue not having yet visited.

    I picked ramps with Paul Virant and crew, and his young son about the age of one of my own, a couple years ago, and leaving the farm was intent on visiting the restaurant, where it sounded like they were doing wonderful things. One of the Vie cooks suggested I smoke some trout in ramp leaves, which I never got around to doing either.

    And during the time I was fortunate enough to be involved with Purple Asparagus, I really thought Vie would be an ideal, perhaps the ideal, place for an event. Perhaps it still will, but I could never pull it together.

    Its suburban location, mostly, proved an insurmountable obstacle to me. I hope it does not here, given the loving, reverential tones with which its discussed by the (predominantly suburban) board denizens who've had the opportunity to give it a try.
  • Post #8 - February 16th, 2009, 11:45 pm
    Post #8 - February 16th, 2009, 11:45 pm Post #8 - February 16th, 2009, 11:45 pm
    To me, Vie is one of the finest and most important restaurants in Chicagoland. Over the past 15 months -- since Vie was initially named as a GNR -- their standard of excellence has consistently risen, if that's even possible. It is unique because even though it's a neighborhood restaurant, the level of cuisine is extraordinarily elevated. Their food is not only delicious but also focused on local ingredients in a way that very few other places are. What you get at Vie is remarkable ingredients -- diverse, delicious and atypical -- prepared with a top kitchen-aesthetic. There is a craftsman-like mindset at Vie and their canning, pickling, preserving, smoking and charcuterie work highlight the menu, which is so bountiful, it's hard to decide what to order. If Vie only offered these types of foods, it might -- even then -- stand out as exemplary but, of course, it goes way beyond such hard-to-find delicacies.

    This is food that matters. Vie is the epicenter of the most important type of cooking happening in our city right now. But it's not a didactic, finger-wagging sort of place. It's a comfortable and welcoming place, where dining is easy and thoroughly enjoyable. Diners feel like the folks at Vie care about them and there's a good reason why -- they do.

    This is a GNR is ever there was one.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #9 - February 17th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Post #9 - February 17th, 2009, 2:24 pm Post #9 - February 17th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    I agree with everything in ronnie_surburban's post. I happily support renewal for Vie.

    What surprises me about Vie is how few people have heard of it - - and how empty the restaurant was during our Friday dinner. If one of the purposes of the GNR program is to recognize and promote great restaurants, then renewal for Vie should be an easy decision.

    Ronna
  • Post #10 - February 17th, 2009, 3:07 pm
    Post #10 - February 17th, 2009, 3:07 pm Post #10 - February 17th, 2009, 3:07 pm
    REB wrote:What surprises me about Vie is how few people have heard of it - - and how empty the restaurant was during our Friday dinner.
    That should end -- it was favorably reviewed by the Trib last week.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #11 - February 17th, 2009, 3:36 pm
    Post #11 - February 17th, 2009, 3:36 pm Post #11 - February 17th, 2009, 3:36 pm
    JoelF wrote:
    REB wrote:What surprises me about Vie is how few people have heard of it - - and how empty the restaurant was during our Friday dinner.
    That should end -- it was favorably reviewed by the Trib last week.
    Good news. As great as their food is, they shouldn't have a dead Friday night.

    Ronna
  • Post #12 - February 19th, 2009, 8:55 am
    Post #12 - February 19th, 2009, 8:55 am Post #12 - February 19th, 2009, 8:55 am
    We've got to see a friend perform at The Theatre of Western Springs on Saturday so off to Vie we go for a pre-theatre dinner. Looks great and the reviews here helped us "pull the trigger" I also found their
    free corkage policy for wines 10 years or older to be a welcome addition!
  • Post #13 - February 22nd, 2009, 12:13 pm
    Post #13 - February 22nd, 2009, 12:13 pm Post #13 - February 22nd, 2009, 12:13 pm
    I heartly support this renewal. Not only is Vie our go-to place to celebrate special occasions, I really enjoy the regular update emails I receive from them. Paul Virant not only sends the usual announcements of upcoming dinner events but he also tells me a little bit about his staff, the seasonal item he might be featuring, or a current wine. I learn a little bit more about the food he serves and that makes me more interested in eating it. I even enjoy reading the recipies he often includes.
    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #14 - March 11th, 2009, 10:49 am
    Post #14 - March 11th, 2009, 10:49 am Post #14 - March 11th, 2009, 10:49 am
    Like Schwa and Moto, Vie falls into a category, I think, of GNRs that go against the grain if only because, like Schwa and Moto, Vie aims higher in its food, service, price point – and like them, has had its fair share of media accolades. So, why is Vie a GNR (or worthy of renewal of its GNR) and not simply "one of those" non-GNR high-end places with skilled chefs and top-shelf ingredients like Naha and Alinea?

    Quite simply, I think Vie stands out from the pack precisely because I don't think it intends to be "great," it intends to be what it is, which happens to be great. One effect of the GNRs is to, in part, bring attention to and honor restaurants which are great in their uniqueness. As the GNR certificate says, Vie is truly the only Chicago restaurant which is dedicated to Chef Paul Virant’s local and seasonal philosophy. To me, Vie is also a “neighborhood restaurant.” If I lived closer, it would be in my regular rotation and I can only imagine how grateful the people around Western Springs are that they don’t have to drive into the city and make reservations two weeks in advance in order to savor Vie’s cuisine. Unlike most of the investor, media-driven city restaurants with huge openings and tourist/conventioneer clientele, swanky decor and menus which are a yawn-inducing what’s what of trendster dishes of the moment (pork belly, anyone?), Vie is comparably humble, approachable and a place you can generally walk into without a reservation. Its myopic dedication to demonstrating, in master class form, how satisfying eating locally and seasonally probably turns some people off or doesn’t meet others’ cutting-edge expectations. That Vie operates below the radar, without the pomp and circumstance of Charlie, Paul, Rick, et al., demonstrates to me the unique, focused commitment of a restaurant that makes it a true GNR.
  • Post #15 - March 11th, 2009, 6:17 pm
    Post #15 - March 11th, 2009, 6:17 pm Post #15 - March 11th, 2009, 6:17 pm
    aschie30 wrote:Unlike most of the investor, media-driven city restaurants with huge openings and tourist/conventioneer clientele, swanky decor and menus which are a yawn-inducing what’s what of trendster dishes of the moment (pork belly, anyone?), Vie is comparably humble, approachable and a place you can generally walk into without a reservation.

    I have to point out that pork belly was on their menu last week, although it's not right now.
    Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly endorse this as a neighborhood restaurant, if for no other reason than a lot of the food comes from the neighborhood -- Paul Virant's pantry of preserved morsels of delight, let alone the local (and a few remote) farms and purveyors.

    And it's great too.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #16 - September 19th, 2011, 4:51 am
    Post #16 - September 19th, 2011, 4:51 am Post #16 - September 19th, 2011, 4:51 am
    This place is up for renewal of its GNR. Please post your comments here until 10/10/11.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #17 - September 20th, 2011, 9:25 am
    Post #17 - September 20th, 2011, 9:25 am Post #17 - September 20th, 2011, 9:25 am
    I made my first visit to Vie last week and was blown away. I'm a city dweller so this is a bit of hike for me, but I came away hugely impressed. One thing we noticed was how calm and low key the dining room was. I think we were all used to noise levels of Chicago restaurants so the amount of space and the fact that I could talk to my dining companions without leaning in was nice. We had a Blackboard Eats code (my new favorite site, thanks Louisa) that gave us the 5 course tasting for $49, $69 with wine parings.

    We started off with an amuse of smoked sturgeon with tomato jam and pickled green tomatoes. The sturgeon melted on the tongue, amazing flavor.

    The first course was a summer beet agnolotti: roasted beet and preserved lemon filled pasta, red beet and sesame puree, crispy confit of pork, brown butter, lemon and oregano. This was my favorite the lemon kept the beets natural sweetness in check, the pasta was superb and cooked just enough, the crispy pork confit added just enough flavor and richness. I'd go back for that alone.

    Second was a wood grilled lemonfish with butterball potatoes, creamed corn, smoked and marinated carrot salad. What stood out for me in this dish were the sides the creamed corn was toothsome, not the overcooked over sauced glop it can be and the smoked and marinated carrots were lightly smoky tasting with the acid marinade balancing the sugar in the carrots. I never thought of doing that with carrots, but I may have to try.

    Third was a wood-grilled dry aged Dietzler farm beef loin and braised oxtail, slow cooked tuscan kale, wood-grilled fennel, pickled artichokes, confit cherry tomatoes with red wine beef jus. The meat was beefy with a nice mineral tang, but it was the sides that again made this dish for me. They were never afterthoughts just put on a plate to look nice. It was clear a lot of thought had gone into the flavor balance. People know about Virant's passion for preserving, pickling and canning and it really shows in the sides.

    Next was a cheese course from Prairie farms, the krotovina, a goat and sheeps milk cheese served with a grilled strawberry jam. I'm not that fond of camembert after dinner, I often find it too rich, so I loved the tang of this cheese and the jam made it shine. I could make a sandwich out of this and have it for lunch every day.

    Last was a valrhona chocolate cake with popcorn gelato. The cake was good, but the gelato shone with flavors of corn, butter an salt. I was surprised how much I liked this.

    Paul's father-in-law was hosting/managing and was charming. You could see how proud he was of Paul and his restaurant. They are lucky to have the very talented Nathan Sears running the kitchen. They have a genuine commitment to locally sourced food, they know their clientele when they come in and they are what a GNR should be. I wish they were in my neighborhood, but I'm happy to make the trek out here.
    For what we choose is what we are. He should not miss this second opportunity to re-create himself with food. Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"
  • Post #18 - October 2nd, 2011, 4:19 pm
    Post #18 - October 2nd, 2011, 4:19 pm Post #18 - October 2nd, 2011, 4:19 pm
    Vie remains one of my very favorite restaurants in Chicagoland; it's certainly in my top 3. Food, beverage and service are all consistently fantastic at Vie. Even though it's 30 miles from my house, I've eaten there well over 2 dozen times. It continues to get better as it goes along. I heartily support renewal.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #19 - October 2nd, 2011, 6:09 pm
    Post #19 - October 2nd, 2011, 6:09 pm Post #19 - October 2nd, 2011, 6:09 pm
    I think this restaurant is the finest example of seasonal, sustainable cuisine in Chi. A place I send other chefs to when asked.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #20 - October 7th, 2011, 1:58 pm
    Post #20 - October 7th, 2011, 1:58 pm Post #20 - October 7th, 2011, 1:58 pm
    Vie is a long drive for us. We make the drive a couple times a year. Mr. X said it best the other night: the food is simple yet complex. So much going on, so much care goes into it. Yes to renewal!
    -Mary
  • Post #21 - October 9th, 2011, 8:40 pm
    Post #21 - October 9th, 2011, 8:40 pm Post #21 - October 9th, 2011, 8:40 pm
    A good friend and I were discussing fine restaurants, and the standard to which we compared them kept being Vie. The conclusion was not just that Vie is the standard for quality, but also hits a price point that feels like stealing in comparison to just about any comparable restaurant. Judging Vie by its own standards alone, I can say that not every meal is as wonderful, but every meal is pretty much wonderful.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy

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