Thursday, March 27, 2008

Birthdays call for special eats. So it was with much consternation that I attempted to whittle down my (exorbitantly long) short list of restaurants that would fit the bill. The criteria? Location, somewhere close, preferably West Side. Food, eclectic, gourmet and fun, but not extravagant. Beer, good craft list, absolutely nowhere that doesn't take pride in deciding what to serve. Price, somewhere between 'gulp' and 'boinggg' as Danny Kaye so eloquently put it.

After some commiseration with the birthday girl, we narrowed it down to three choices: Ty Fun (pronounced typhoon to the uninitiated), a hip little Thai spot that serves up some killer pad, Lolita, which nary a mention should be necessary, and Fat Cats, an overlooked and underrated establishment with a great skyline view of downtown.

Further paring of the triumvirate proved easier than anticipated. The immediacy of hunger necessitated that Lolita be banished to a certain visit in the near future and Thai was off the mark on our palate preference for the evening, so Fat Cats it was. It also factored that we hadn't been there in a year and we were due for some seared duck...

As you can see, it's a funky little bistro that serves up fine-tuned dishes and drinks. Treated to an amuse of crusty bread with olive tapenade, we perused the menu and plotted our attack. It was decided around the time I received my Magic Hat #9 that I would indeed have the aforementioned Seared Duck Breast, while Katie would be enjoying the Braised Lamb Shank, though there would be generous sharing on both sides.

Without belaboring the details, the meals were quite delicious. My duck, served with the requisite orange sauce, was perfectly balanced by the confit and potato pancake, with goat cheese providing some creamy indulgence. I even enjoyed the brussels sprouts, sliced in half, glazed and pan-seared.

Katie's lamb was savory and rich, the wild mushrooms and mashed potatoes making a mellifluous melange of every bite. With entree consumed, we toyed with the idea of ordering the bread pudding. I'm not normally a big proponent of the stuff, but this recipe stood out; with dried cherries, chocolate and peanut butter sauce, it was like a child's concoction gone curiously gourmet. But, our full bellies got the better of us and we made our exit. The sky had gone dark, and the chill to the air told us winter had not yet receded, but one thing made me giddy with anticipation. The home of the Indians, whatever you'd like to call it, was lit up like, well, game day, reminding me that the new season and with it, spring, is right around the corner.

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