Back in Spring 2004, I did an exchange program in high school where I lived with a homestay family in Grenoble, France. It was my very first trip abroad and my first exposure to the culinary genius that is French food — every single, simple meal my homestay family prepared was a masterpiece of flavors AND presentation — and from that trip on, I was hooked.
See, before I lived in France, I really had no idea how important presentation was when it came to food. Elegant presentation can turn the simplest dish into true art.
And ever since 2004 I’ve been religiously exploring the idea of food as art — I love a dish that not only smells and tastes delicious but that’s also presented in an inspiring and visually rich way. Food art really is my favorite kind of art (but maybe that’s because I get to EAT it too?)!
And there are few restaurants in Chicago that strive to create food art in a French way more than Café des Architectes. Located in the heart of the Gold Coast in the stunning Sofitel Hotel, Café des Architectes has been one of my favorite restaurants ever since I first sampled their nibbles at the Sofitel ‘Revealed’ exhibit in November 2014.
The lobby is always magnificently decorated with a stunning attention to detail that I can only describe as “french”. When Starr and I came in for lunch a few weeks ago, everything was decorated in honor of Van Gogh’s Bedroom exhibit at the Art Institute and the beautiful sunflower display was such a stunning (and necessary) reminder of the warm months we have ahead here in Chicago.
The menu is short and deliberate — a true French menu if I ever saw one. Instead of endless options, expect to see a small, highly curated selection of magnificent dishes unlike any others. First off we started with some very necessary coffee (hey, we both work A LOT of hours — caffeine is a necessary evil).
For starters, I always recommend first timers try Sofitel’s addictive Chestnut Provisions line when they come. The Tasting Plate offers a selection of cured meats and cheeses crafted from Sofitel’s very own cheese and charcuterie cave. Accompanied by housemade preserves, pickles, and jams, this platter is basically ALL I ever want to eat for lunch. I’ve been especially addicted to their cheeses ever since I tried them at Christmas.
Chestnut Provisions is a delicious offering unique to Sofitel. As an artisanally-driven kitchen-to-table concept created by Executive Chef, Greg Biggers, Chestnut Provisions has an incredibly delicious assortment of cave aged cheeses, charcuterie, jams and preserves utilized throughout their menus. All made RIGHT on the premises. You CAN’T find a fresher or more locally sourced charcuterie plate in the entire city.
Few restaurants appreciate the culinary arts, especially the French culinary arts, like Café des Architectes. Everytime I’ve gone the dishes have WOWed me with their simplicity, their elegance, and their deliciousness.
Every dish is art on a plate. And the way I see it is if I’m going to eat out, why not make sure it’s at a place where every dish is a culinary masterpiece?
photo by Sed Bona
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