Here. Sure, I'm such a Vie-aholic that I would have linked to this post anyways (and even if it was not just my favorite restaurant, the pics are great), but I have the added advantage of actually having been at this meal presented in pixilated glory.
I don't have a lot to add to Ronnie Suburban's post. Not only does he nail the pictures, he nails the spirit of the event.
Vie continues to hit me on such an emotional and spiritual level, it's hard to analyze it. Each time I go there, I'm impressed by the way the dishes build in impact as the meal progresses. At so many other restaurants, after the short, intense burst of flavors provided by the starter courses, the entrees often fail to compel, and the momentum is lost. But at Vie, the exact opposite is true. Yes, the appetizers literally appetize -- hell, they dazzle -- but the inspired, imaginative and satisfying entrees just blow you away. There is no palate fatigue at Vie. Chef Virant and his crew may have the best senses of culinary build and pacing that I have experienced. The menu at Vie changes frequently and while that definitely benefits the diner, it's significant in that seems to be a natural extension of how this crew is constantly pushing themselves to build on what they have already accomplished. When you dine at Vie, you're tapping into the ongoing creative process of a uniquely-talented chef and a kitchen with a truly artistic sensibility. I'm sure customer satisfaction is important at Vie but I get the feeling that no one is harder to satisfy than chef Virant himself.
All I can do is comment around the edges. Since every dish hit home, of the ten or so times I've been to Vie in the last year, this was the best meal, I'll toss off a couple of nitpicks. Truffles on eggs is a great idea; the scrambled eggs fantastic--I'm not quite sure how Vie can do what appears to be a very slow cooked egg in a restaurant setting--but these truffles were not that pungent. OK, I've said my peace.
What's most interesting about Vie right now is the direction that Vie's heading. I'm hardly a fine dining snob. I am not one who seeks innovation for the sake of innovation in my food, nor do I think that the presence of foie gras, lobster, truffles and the such make the experience intrinsically better. But Vie is getting a bit classier in its approach. He's using truffles! The Au Bon Carnard local foie gras, has been on the menu for about a year, in ever changing variations. Now, it's showing up in the ice cream. With Vie, it works for a few reasons.
First, the food remains so tied to local, seasonal, and artesanal. There was nothing we ate the other night that was a "cheat" (beyond the sense that Vie gets fish from non-local waters). Second, the food is so precise, so well executed. They cover the basics so well; the time the fish is on the grill, the way things are fried. Third, as I have noted before, I love the repertoire. The dishes are always familiar but with enough twist to be Virant's. Finally, as Ronnie S notes, its the spirit of the place. Chef Virant walks out of the kitchen in a T Shirt, big smile on his face. Jenny who runs the front of the house is also all smiles. Everyone of the staff I talk to speaks to how much they respect Chef V and enjoy working there. This so much shows up in the dining room. I never worry about Vie getting too big for its britches because it's so comfortable to be there.
4471 Lawn Ave.
Western Springs, IL 60558