Bistro Margot, Chicago.

October 2013.

Here we found a rare clanger of a mistake by the Michelin Guide. Even mentioning this place reveals a reviewer either with no idea what good food is or who took somebody else’s word for it. Often a first impression, both olfactory and global, is correct and that was the case here. The dominant smell was burnt onion, the feel Keg and Cleaver.

We sat in a claustrophobic alcove under a stairway hoping to be shielded from the noise. The server was a pleasant Asian lady doing a poor imitation of vocational-school “I’ll be looking after you tonight, my name is Hop Sim.” We were hungry and craving alcohol after a harrowing cross-continent day and so suspended judgment, ordering and starting to inhale the ordinary if fairly-priced central California pinot out of heavy small glasses, but were put off by the frankly stale French bread.

We shared a huge plate of “PEI” mussels, quite tasty but founded in a liquid echoing burnt onion. My main was roasted duck with polenta and I was stunned at the lack of flavor. How does one accomplish that? Possibly freeze the thing for ten months and then forget to take it out of the oven. But the polenta also had no real taste and at first I mistook it for way-overcooked mashed turnip. Robin’s roast chicken was just a chicken version of the same thing, the breast more noticeably dry because it was chicken.

Funny how because everybody says Chicago is the place to eat in North America one expects that to extend to every little greasy spoon. This was our first night in town after the aforementioned, consisting in a struggle with San Francisco airport and the unfriendly and incompetent skies of post-9/11 United Airlines, a bit disappointed with our rented-apartment accommodation, and facing the prospect of four days walking around the city on a gouty left big toe. We needed to be soothed and to get a little pleasantly tipsy but instead experienced another disappointment.

Ambience 4.9, food 3.4, service 4.7, overall value 4.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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