We’re proud to feature Nemo Lacessit, a Chicago boulevardier and bon vivant. Nemo periodically reviews notable New York, London and Chicago restaurants for the edification of DailySpec readers. 

Copperblue, Chicago
580 East Illinois Street

Sometimes one stumbles on a small gem. Not a big gem, not a brazenly daring gem, nothing to turn the knock the lights out but a small, reserved, tightly bound, exquisitely grown gem. Copperblue is such a gem. Tucked away at the base of Lake Point Tower in Chicago (the only building jutting to the east of Lake Shore Drive) this petit-boite serves up culinary masterpieces without pomp and circumstance.

 The style is a cross of French-Mediterranean (done the right way, which means French, Italian, Spanish, with hints of Arabesque) in well-crafted dishes by two up-and-coming chefs. Chef-owner Michael Tsonton and Chef de cuisine Victor Newgren's 50 seat intimate restaurant present a whimsical balance of presentation, appealing colors and rainbow tastes. The menu is divided into "work" and "play" — the former are humble and down-to-earth while the latter emphasizes whimsicality and fun. I had the seven course chef's tasting menu which started with braised lamb and red lentil brik, goat cheese, and curry vinaigrette, then moved to pan-roasted diver scallops, aromatic "18" carrot soup and organic olive oil. For the next few plates I had viognier-braised farm rabbit, English peas, mushrooms, spring onion, parpardelle in natural "thumper" jus. Sprinkled between these plates were two cheese courses that actually made sense; spread out between the entree so as to suggest and stimulate but not overwhelm.

On my trips to Spain and the south of France I learned that true Mediterranean cuisine loves rice, specially saffron rice as can be found on a paella. Copperblue has a variation on this with their saffron seafood risotto, "paella" lobster, shrimp, baby clams and mussels in a lobster broth. The specialty of the house is their "organic duck two ways" duck leg spice "ras el hanout", roasted duck breast with "Don Cherry" trumpet mushrooms and fresh chick peas.

The wine list is selective and reflects the ambiance of the restaurant. There is the mandatory 2000 Chateau Latour (Haut Brion), 2003 Maison Champy Vosne Romanee Les Beaux (1ere Cru), but better yet some Italian 2004 Bruni Morellino di Scansano, which goes well with everything.

The restaurateurs should really be in bigger space with more commanding presences, but they're having fun, making people happy, and keeping it simple, relaxed, and simply fabulous. This is perfect venue for a relaxed up-scale dinner without all the drama.





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