Wilmette welcomed its newest restaurant, Bluette, in late November.
With a small but well-chosen menu of bistro favorites, inviting plate glass windows, charming Delft-blue walls, and bright orange water glasses, Bluette is primed to make a splash.
Reports from the first few weeks after opening were that the food was uneven and service was well intentioned but haphazard (orders forgotten or mixed up). If you were one of those early visitors, I urge you to try again. It’s really not fair to form a lasting judgment in the difficult first weeks after a restaurant’s opening.
We were pleasantly surprised by the efficient and friendly service. Yes, there were a few glitches, but they were minor; the food is really quite good.
And when I stopped by for a quick peek at the kitchen, I was shocked to see only one chef on the line, owner David Richards, deftly working the grill, four-burner stove and oven (the fryer was on the fritz that night). I was amazed at the food he was putting out alone. So I forgave him for not warming the bread (from nearby Heavenly Hearth, always a welcome addition to the table), because there was nowhere to do it!
We started our meal with the Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee ($8); Richards’ version features a melted blanket of bubbling Gruyere atop a light onion broth, thankfully not overly salted as most versions are. The Soup of the Day ($7) was Ribollita (although our server was unaware of the name, describing it as an “Italian bread and tomato soup”), a full-flavored, robust dish laced with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil that was more a savory bread and tomato stew than a soup.
Salads were a hit. The Warm Indiana Goat Cheese Salade ($9) was lovely, both in taste and presentation: mesclun greens, lightly coated in an aged sherry vinaigrette, ringed by huge, halved seedless red grapes, topped with a disk of warm goat cheese encrusted with olive tapenade, with a lovely pansy flower perched in the center.
The Salade Lyonnaise ($10) was a flawless interpretation of the classic, with a perfectly poached farm egg resting on a tangle of frisee laced with bacon lardons, brioche croutons and toasted brioche crumbs. I am a sucker for that egg; once you break the yolk and toss it all together it is all a salad should be.
We moved on to our entrees, fueled by the two bottles of wine we brought along. Bluette is BYOB, and there is no corkage fee, so feel free to bring in a bit of bubbly, or perhaps a large bottle of craft beer, as the guests at the next table did.
Served on a terrific pretzel roll, with cucumber, horseradish “pate” and salmon roe that popped pleasantly in your mouth, the Salmon Burger ($14) seemed poised for greatness. Alas, we loved the flavor profile, but it was served lukewarm.
The Butter-Poached Lobster Risotto ($24) was filled with cream, Parmesan and Grana Padano cheeses along with copious chunks of tender lobster. One bite was all I could manage—too rich for my taste—but our guest polished it off happily.
I love me some duck, so I was drawn to the Duck Leg Confit ($19), served on a bed of heirloom bean and sausage cassoulet. The duck itself was moist, but not falling off the bone the way I like best; the beans, studded with root veggies, herbs and tomato (but only one small piece of sausage) were perfect.
The Short Rib Special ($21) was so very tasty; the meat nearly disintegrated, it was so tender. The mashed potatoes, poised beneath it to soak up every last bit of juice, were creamy and yummy. This dish was unexpectedly paired with a mango puree that brought just the right amount of fruitiness to the meat.
Desserts are a work in progress—literally. Richards hasn’t settled on a dessert menu yet, so complimentary desserts were brought to the table to share. The Flourless Chocolate Cake was dark and dense, and happily, not too sweet. Served with fresh whipped cream and mango sauce, it quickly became a thing of the past.
The Dried Fruit Bread Pudding could have used a few more minutes in the oven, but that didn’t deter us too much.
Bluette is open for lunch Wednesday to Friday, and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. They are closed on Monday and Tuesday. Check out this latest and welcome addition to the neighborhood.