Saturday, February 24, 2007

Volo Restaurant Wine Bar

Volo is yet another reason I love, love, love living in Roscoe Village. When Julie, one of my best friends from Cincinnati came to visit this weekend, I felt the need to take her to a good Chicago restaurant and show off our new city. She'd eaten at Boystown's XO the night before with another friend and went on about the meal, the wine and the atmosphere, and truthfully I felt a little pressure to make my restaurant choice equally as good.

Peter chose to stay in and let us have some "girl time," so we ventured out towards Roscoe Street ready to catch up, drink wine and of course enjoy some good food. I hoped Volo wouldn't let me down. We were seated right away near the front window. The space is small, for sure, but we settled into our cozy spot right away. We spent some time reading our menus, pondering what exactly to get. There's a list of food down the left side and a limited choice of four or five wine flights on the right. At first confused, I eventually realized that the symbols next to each food item were coded to match the flights (yup, I'm a smart one). After discussing what sounded good to each of us we realized that the Pinot Noir flight was the right one for us. We ordered four plates and a flight each and were on our way.

The wine proved to be the only thing we were served that looked the way I thought it would. Our server first brought out the calamari, stuffed with shrimp and andouille sausage. I know it's a bit ignorant of me, but when I read calamari on a menu I've come to automatically expect piles of the stuff on a plate or in a bowl, generally fried or grilled. This was neither, but was instead a single tube that had been stuffed with the seafood mix and stood upright in a row, on a stripe of leek fondue and another stripe of creole sauce. It was delicious and I was secretly glad when Julie left both me with two extra pieces with which to soak up the sauce still on the plate. At the same time as the calamari our waiter brought us a goat cheese, bacon and mushroom pizza. Heavenly. Not your average pizza in the slightest, the three wedges of crust appeared to be almost fried, and this cracker-crisp crust was the perfect base for the creamy goat cheese, thick slices of crunchy bacon and sauteed mushrooms. There was even a dash of red pepper flakes sprinkled on top (my fave) that lended the perfect amount of kick. Thus far, we were very happy with our choices.

Our second two courses were good but fell a bit flat. The white bean and escarole dish I'd hoped would be a thick spread with some nice flatbread arrived as just a somewhat bland soup (clearly I missed the word "soup" somehere on the menu). Julie had adventurously ordered the duck confit, never having had duck before. I expected it to be off the bone and sprinkled on top of the lettuce, but it arrived in full bone-in form that we had to pick off. I'm not normally a big fan of the strong, oily meat of duck, but this was pretty tasty. The crisp skin on top melted in our mouths and were a nice balance with the red wine jus and spiced greens.

As for the wine, our three tastings were good but not great. The first, a Burgundy, was described as "soft." We agreed, but also thought that it was so soft it lacked body and was pretty forgettable. The second, and Pinot from New Zealand, was our clear favorite and the perfect match with the duck. Too bad I was thirsty enough to have consumed most of it before we made it to the second set of courses! The third wine we both agreed was just plain bad. Our waiter instructed us that the wine listed on the menu had been replaced by one the chef found to be better, but we both winced at the cough syrupy taste and floral bouquet. I powered through and finished my glass (well, it would be wasteful not to, right?) but Julie left hers half un-drunk. Instead of ordering dessert, we each had one more glass of the gem from New Zealand.

All in all we had a lovely evening. The service was friendly but not overbearing and the atmosphere was hip and stylish but not in an overly trendy way. I read on their web site that they have a "loungy backyard" so now I've got yet another reason I'm counting down the days until warm weather is here again. And with reasonable prices and several special wine and food tasting events each week you can bet I'll bring Peter here to experience Volo in the very near future.

I'll admit that I was more than a little pleased when Julie declared that our meal had been better than XO.

The damage: about $50 each for a wine flight plus several small courses

Food: 4 of 5 forks - I can still taste that delicious pizza and its fantastic combination of flavors.

Romance: 4 out 5 kisses - I can't wait to bring Peter back to enjoy a romantic, candlelit meal, especially now that I know they have a relaxing patio in back.

Watch out for: the fact that you might not enjoy all the wines chosen for you in your flight.

Volo Restaurant Wine Bar
2008 West Roscoe
Chicago, IL 60618
Phone (773) 348-4600

1 comment:

Julie said...

Yay! I am long overdue in a visit to the blog, but I am here just in time! Spoy on account of our experience! I can't wait to come back and be a guest celebrity in another blog.