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Thirsty Thursday: Ooh La La

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If you live in Lincoln Park, I hope that Chez Moi is on your list of rotating restaurants that you frequent, because it is just darling and the food is yummy. They have a patio that is perfect for summer, and their interior is charming and cozy for winter. The French fare is really good, and they have a nice selection of wines and beers. I recently went to the restaurant’s annual Mussel Fest, in which I drank beer pairings while I devoured endless mussels. After stuffing myself with one of my favorite dishes, Chef and owner Dominique invited us to come check out his new lounge in the back room that was scheduled to open the following week. I must say, while the Lincoln Park restaurant stretch on Halsted has a great food scene and a variety of restaurants, it is nice to hear that a new bar was popping up for post-dinner cocktails. I think it is a great addition to the neighborhood.

The Movers and Shakers

Chef Dominique and Gabe, the new bar director, have kept with the restaurant’s commitment to its classic French milieu, and has a bar menu that consists of French cocktails, both classic libations and some new concoctions. I am not certain of Gabe’s experience in the restaurant industry, but I know that he has just recently rejoined the Chicago restaurant scene after many years away. Chef Dominique opened the space with the help of former Blackhawks player Cristobal Huet in May of 2012. For the last five years, Chez Moi has been a Lincoln park staple.

 

The Vibe

As it’s name suggests, Ooh La La is an ode to France. While the decor is a bit cheesy, with a couple of Eiffel Tower artifacts laying around and bright blue curtains, it is still charming nonetheless. Originally a speakeasy, the restaurant itself is old and has a nostalgic atmosphere. You enter the bar through the side of the restaurant, where you ring a doorbell and are greeted by your host: your bartender for the evening.

The space is tiny, but in a way that exudes exclusivity–dim lighting, plush chairs, and small round tables make up the intimate space. The tables are tiny and with the rather large chairs can only fit about three people. The long bar at the back of Ooh La La is dimly lit as well, accenting the booze on the shelves behind the bar.

Is This Seat Taken?

Ooh La La is definitely the perfect date spot for post dinner cocktails. Additionally, I found it to be a perfect place to start your evening with girlfriends, as I brought my BFF Charlotte and sister Ashley. Patrons of the bar were of an older crowd it seemed, but that’s not to say it isn’t great for youngings. I think that the space is just new, and neighborhood regulars were keen to check the space out first. Once we had gotten set up with our ideal libations, we were excited that they also had a food menu. While not extensive, these bar bites were perfect for the occasion. We ordered the duck confit flatbread, which was amazing. Additionally, they were kind enough to let us order a cheese and charcuterie plate from the main restaurant. The cheeses and selections of meats were divine.

The Libations

Staying consistent with the French theme, as I mentioned previously, the cocktail menu is made of 14 classic French and French inspired cocktails. I must note that as charming and attentive as our bartender Gabe was, he had a few flubs when it came to our beverages. First, he confused the absinthe drink I ordered, called the “Death in the Afternoon” with another cocktail, and instead gave my date, who had ordered a very dirty martini, the absinthe beverage. Absinthe has a specific taste, so I promptly called him out on his mistake, to which he insisted he was correct. I knew I was right, and eventually he obliged. Absinthe is green, and the drink he presented to me was deep brown. Charlotte had to send back her martini a second time because it didn’t taste right; it wasn’t as dirty or as strong as one would like a martini to be. Ashley enjoyed her “Last Word”.

The cocktail menu has many options to choose from, which is always nice. That being said, I think that Ooh La La could get more adventurous with the cocktails. I would have loved to see cocktails with a little more imagination; the addition of egg whites to a cocktail, some cocktails on the rocks, and more fruit forward cocktails. A lot of them, in my opinion, were strong and a little more brawny then I would have preferred. Again, I of course could not try all of them, but of the ones that did appeal to me, I still think they were more potent than my palette preferred. Ashley and Charlotte agreed. I would have liked to also see more cocktails with champagne incorporated in them.

After our cocktails were through, we decided to switch to red wine. At the suggestion of Gabe, we were presented a lovely, medium-bodied Cote Du Rhone Rouge. It was perfect to go with the last bit of our bites, and a smooth finish to our evening. The wine list has a variety of different wines, and a good selection by the looks.

Cheers!

Overall, the experience at Ooh La La was a pleasant and memorable one. Charlotte, Ashley and I had a great start to our girls night, and the service and the staff were wonderful. Ooh La La is new, and it still has a few kinks to work out, but overall I will definitely be back again, and would recommend it to friends looking for a good spot for Friday or Saturday evening cocktails or nightcaps.

Ooh La La
2100 N Halsted Street ‘
Chicago, IL 60614

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