Located in the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Cafe des Architectes offers French cuisine with a twist of Asian or Latin, depending on the season. If you think French denotes food slathered in cream and butter, Castan begs to differ. Over the past 10 to 15 years, chefs have innovated a lighter style that retains French cooking traditions yet produces "more flavorful, health-conscious" meals. Executive chef Frederic Castan's menu follows suit, listing an array of salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and fish and seafood.
We sampled the steamed halibut with Thai seasonings and found a great care in presentation with a minimal, multi-colored dicing of vegetables and just enough broth to add flavor (rather than drenching the meal). Chef Castan explained that the fish kept its integrity because it was "steamed in lemongrass and cilantro."
Find moderately priced dinners (for the Gold Coast) at Cafe des Architectes for $19 to $32. To end a light lunch, try a mini-dessert (about the size of a Reese's cup) for only $1; choices change every day. Sing out after sampling the Opera, layers of almond cake, mocha cream and grenache. Finish your meal with an espresso pulled right on the money. Count on restaurant manager Michiel J.J. Hagendoorn for service more akin to a culinary guide than a mere host.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Chris Benevich