Cafe Sebastienne @ Kemper Museum
How in the world has it taken me six years to make it to Cafe Sebastienne!? I’m almost mourning those wonderful meals not enjoyed all this time.
The restaurant had been mentioned on occasion the last few years and I knew Restaurant Week would be a great excuse to get there. Now I know why those friends were such big fans of the place.
The first thing you notice upon entering Cafe Sebastienne is the atmosphere. For someone like me who focuses on the food, ambiance often takes a backseat. But it is such a different and wonderful atmosphere here that it truly sets the tone for an exceptional experience. The restaurant is divided into two areas. The dining room is a smaller cozy area with beautiful bright art lining every inch of the walls and tables placed closely together. The other atrium-like area mimics outdoor dining - airy and open - with vaulted sky-light ceilings and a huge pronounced piece of art running nearly the length of the room.
The server was one of the best I’ve had recently, exactly what you hope for in a first-time visit. He was very knowledgeable about the menu, made good recommendations and was appropriate in his timing at the table as we were having some heavy conversation. He suggested the raspberry tea, one of three iced teas available (gotta love a lunch where you have these simple options). It was exactly what I was looking for – a delicately flavored tea, uncontrived, served with a slice of lime.
I had intended to partake in the Restaurant Week menu but an item on the regular lunch menu really jumped off the page. When I saw Reuben and Kobe on the same item, learning the rest of the components was just like icing on the cake. This heavenly sandwich started with toasted marbled rye and was piled high with American Kobe corned beef, braised sweet red cabbage, Gruyère cheese and house-made Thousand Island dressing. The meat was sliced thin and the cabbage - the best part of the dish- was perfectly sweet and sour. The cheese was not overwhelming, just enough to add taste and texture. There were so many Perfect Bites in this little sandwich I couldn’t stop eating it!
My heavenly Reuben was paired with a German potato salad. It was just right with quartered red potatoes, soft but nicely done bacon and the cutest little cornichon slices.
The seasonal side salad was also delightful. The mixed greens had just enough creamy mustard dressing which worked well with the chunks of apple, cubes of smoked gouda and fantastic pecans. The pecans were slightly candied, not too sweet, and a touch salty. It was a salad combination just different enough from what you commonly find, but unpretentious and downright delicious.
My friend enjoyed the fish tacos, a dish she tried on her last visit and was looking forward to having again. They were beautifully assembled with sizeable chunks of fluke, guacamole and all the goodies.
I can’t wait to go back! The menu is full of enticing yet straightforward dishes that still have just the right touch of creativity. I hear the Braised Pork Butt with cheddar grits and spiced pear butter is a winner. And who wouldn’t wanna try Curried Mustard Gulf Shrimp with coconut rice? Enough said, I’m a fan! Looking forward to many more meals of beautiful food in this very beautiful place.