When I lived in India I saw the remnants and confusion, both good and bad, still left in its wake and the bizarre cultural fusions that evolved in the decades that followed.
Hindi and English are used almost interchangeably together in the form of “Hinglish” and any McDonald’s in India will actually give tours of the facilities for vegetarians concerned over whether or not their food is contaminated with the meat they serve.
Colonialism also brought culinary evolution — distinct culinary traditions meeting, marrying and fusing together into something new. Something really exciting!
And being the gourmet food hunter I am by nature, hybrid cuisines are something I always make a point to try (if you haven’t had Dutch-Indonesian food, you NEED to!). So when I heard there was a swanky little spot across from Freds serving up a culinary marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine all amidst a 1920’s aesthetic, I couldn’t wait to check it out! Meet Le Colonial. Designed to harness the romantic beauty of Southeast Asia in the 20’s, this is an upscale spot serving anything but the average Rush Street fare.Fellow blogger (and famous Instagrammer) Rachel joined me for lunch to check out the space and try our first French-Vietnamese nosh. I’d heard time and time again about how legendary Le Colonial was and I couldn’t wait to start eating my way through the menu.Every dish is distinctly Vietnamese but with plenty of French nods (tartare, anyone?). I began with this Mango Martini which was smooth and sweet with plenty of boozy mango chunks swimming around. Yum!
A simple cocktail to quench your thirst on a hot summer day.Next up came our first round of appetizers!This is Le Colonial’s most interesting appetizer, Ca Bam Xuc Banh Trang. A mouthful to pronounce and an even bigger mouthful of flavor! Wok-seared Monkfish with chili, turmeric, lemongrass, and peanuts all served with toasted sesame crackers.
This dish isn’t for the faint of heart!!! It packs a SERIOUS punch of spice and flavor (so make sure your water glasses are full).But the unique flavors are beautifully balanced, positively delicious, and guaranteed to be unlike anything you’d had in Chicago before.
We finished every last morsel, practically licking the plate clean after! Well, in-between marathon rounds of water chugging (thankfully the staff at Le Colonial are fabulously attentive about filling your water-glass!).
Being the tartare lovers we are, we couldn’t resist this Ca Song either. It’s tuna tartare with a Southeast Asian makeover! Vietnamese flavors of tomatoes, cilantro, and cucumber all mixed in with the tuna and finished with a ginger soy dressing. Served with wonton crisps.
Delicate, airy, bright. I love the change-up of textures that the tomatoes brought to the tuna and the flaky crunch of the wonton crisps.
I’d say this is a must-order thanks to the seriously addicting flavors and textures. But then again I’m pretty sure I say that about every tuna tartare I meet…
But let’s FUH-ace it — you can’t eat Vietnamese without a piping hot bowl of Pho (prounouced fuh)!
And Le Colonial’s variation is legendary.
Composed of hearty oxtail broth with rice noodles, beef tenderloin slices and aromatic herbs, this is a MEGA bowl of asian comfort food. And oh-so-pretty to shoot!Especially with Rachel as a hand-model. Isn’t her vintage spoon ring from her grandmother just gorgeous?
After filling ourselves with appetizers we moved on to Le Colonial’s enormous entrées.Rachel ordered the Mi Xao Do Bien — a sizzling plate of stir-fried shrimp, scallops, calamari, and mixed vegetables served over pan-fried egg noodles with a light garlic oyster sauce.
Full of delicious flavor and in a portion size that is more like two meals instead of one! I ended up with this insanely delicious plate of Ca Hap: steamed fillets of Chilean Sea Bass with cellophane noodles, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and fried ginger in a light ginger broth.Are you a ginger fiend too? I can’t seem to ever get enough ginger in my life and this dish was seriously satisfying for my palate. The cellophane noodles are swimming in the rich, gingery broth, adding the perfect complement to the star of the dish, the delicately steamed sea bass.
And the fried ginger on top is such a textural and flavorful surprise!
I couldn’t get enough! And the moment I brought it home Hubby ate every last morsel, declaring it some of the best leftovers I’ve ever brought him (as if I had intended to share…).
Searching for a new cuisine to awaken your palate? Le Colonial will invigorate you with their innovative fusion fare of soul-warming bowls of pho, spicy crackers of monkfish and copious amounts of ginger broth-soaked noodles.
It’s a South Asian paradise with Hermès practically next door — life doesn’t get any more delicious than that!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.