There's a positively lovely new restaurant in Lakeview that I think will quickly become a favorite of people in the neighborhood and a destination spot for the rest of us. Vu Sua opened earlier this year and is turning out beautifully presented French-Vietnamese cuisine. The food here is among the most elegant I've eaten in quite some time, making the prices, which are reasonable to begin with, seem like downright bargains.
The Halsted Street space, which Erwin formerly occupied, has been given a pretty and modern makeover. The refined dining room is washed in ivory and anchored by dark wooden floors. Lighting is soft and artwork is minimal. It's a simple palette that lets the food take center stage. Vu Sua is awaiting its liquor license, so it's BYOB for now. Coming soon is a mixologist crafting cocktails to match the food.
The menu is a mix of Vietnamese classics with subtle culinary upgrades (think spring rolls with pork belly and foie gras) and inventive Asian-inspired dishes that you'd never find on Argyle Street, like a sashimi "pizza." The latter is made with a savory crepe-like "crust" that is topped with an assortment of fresh seafood tossed with bufalina mozzarella. I didn't know how well raw fish and cheese would play together, but I enjoyed this clever dish quite a bit.
You can easily make a delicious meal out of several of Vu Sua's small plates. In addition to above average spring rolls, there's an assortment of soups, salad and sashimi. The asparagus soup is creamy and rich. The flavorful soup is studded with crab and corn and laced with an Asian pear reduction. For a more classic Vietnamese soup, try the beef noodle, a traditional pho packed with tender slices of beef and lots of fragrant fresh herbs. If you enjoy oysters, they'll dazzle you here. A trio of oysters, each drizzled with a different sauce, is served atop of bed of salt. The presentation is beautifuland indicative of the kind of attention to detail that is going on back in the kitchen. Speaking of which, you can get a glimpse of the action by peering into the open kitchen in the back of the restaurant.
You can fill up on small plates, which creates a problem because there are also some not-to-miss entrées. Chief among those is the filet mignon. The tender piece of beef is glazed with soy sauce, and served with seaweed salad and fresh uni cream on a plate that truly looks like a work of art. The filet is served with marshmallow mashed potatoes, which were another pleasant surprise. They are light and super fluffy with just a subtle hint of sweetness.
Dessert at Vu Sua is an affair to remember. I highly recommend the white asparagus pudding, a custard with the melt-in-your-mouth consistency of panna cotta. It's sweet with just the lightest trace of asparagus. It's tasted like spring on a platea stunning plate that is covered in strawberry coconut puree that is artfully swirled into what looks like yet another edible work of art.
The creativity and passion that goes into every dish at Vu Sua is obvious from the very first bite until the last. You can tell that every flavor has been chosen with purpose and that every ingredient is of the highest quality. I left Vu Sua feeling like I had a super high-end meal for a fraction of the cost that I pay at many Chicago restaurants. It's a great place to celebrate a special occasion because everythingfrom the way the oysters are served to the way the soup is poured at your tablefeels special.
Vu Sua is located at 2925 N. Halsted St.; call 773-360-8816 or visit www.vusuarestaurant.com .
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