Much has been made of this bistro's far South Side locale, and it's not hard to see why. With but a single exception, the city has been woefully bereft of Franco-fare south of Cermak. With the opening of Koda, however, White Sox Nation has another reason to cheer: Koda is one of Chicago's finest and most reasonably priced French restaurants.
The dining room radiates gentility; dotted with orchids and roses, the room resonates with dim lighting, soft music and shades of copper and honey wine. If there's any minor quibble design-wise, it's that there's nothing to remind one specifically of France (a fleur-de-lis can't hurt, right?).
The menu offers few surprises, but what Koda does it does well. Entrees in particular, are given a degree of care lacking in many North Side French stalwarts. Everything is delicious, but seafood is where Koda really shines. The citrus-encrusted salmon is delightfully flaky, as it should be, and the skate wing almost melts in the mouth.
Eschewing the "less is more" approach, Koda piles it on, particularly when it comes to meats. Entrees such as tapenade-encrusted rack of lamb and braised short ribs are thick, hearty and dripping with flavor.
Dessert portions are slimmed down; the chocolate hazelnut tart with coconut sorbet and Meyer lemon creme brulee are good enough but too small to share. There's very little on the menu that costs more than $20, but after a cocktail or two, dinner can add up. Stick with iced tea and you'll have a fabulous French meal without breaking the bank.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Adam White