Two for Two—Haché Moderne Brasserie

July 2016 View more

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Few family dynamics are more interesting to observe than the similarities and differences among siblings. Generally raised under the same oversight and a standard set of values, brothers and sisters nevertheless often diverge in surprising ways in their words, actions and mannerisms.

This phenomenon holds for culinary families as well. Aside from those instances when a proprietor opts to simply clone his or her existing concept in an additional location, most new ventures, while retaining at least some of the original DNA, tend to take on a personality, flavor or approach all their own. While few restaurateurs will make the dramatic stylistic leap from, say, biker bar to tea shop, many will see the addition of a new family member as an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and add a few new pages to the same foundational playbook.   

Such is the case in downtown Geneva, where the owners behind the unassuming Naperville gem Paris Bistro have branched out both physically and philosophically with Haché Moderne Brasserie, a brand extension that retains the basic guiding principles of quality, affordable French cuisine, but takes them in several new and compelling directions.

NMAG0716_TableforTwo_Heche Modern Brasserie-100_800pxFrench Connection

A common area of friction among siblings is who gets the bigger/nicer/more pleasantly situated room, and on this count, the youngster from Geneva wins. While Paris Bistro certainly has its cozy and tastefully appointed charms, its compact size and inauspicious placement in the back of a retail strip looking out onto the decidedly non-Parisian scene of a large asphalt theater parking lot limits its atmospheric possibilities.

Haché, on the other hand, occupies a prime corner spot on bustling State Street, with a small but ideal al fresco area out front. Inside, the sleek dining room is bedecked with handsome wood, stone and leather appointments and elegantly extravagant lighting fixtures, with a small bar tucked away behind a glass-enclosed wine room. For all of the surface beauty of the décor, however, it’s behind the half-wall of the semi-open kitchen where the real magic happens.          

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The menu at Haché features a number a familiar French staples such as salad Niçoise, bouillabaisse, escargot, steak frites and coq au vin, but in notable contrast to the slate at its sister restaurant, there’s not a crepe to be had—at least at dinner; weekend brunch is a different story. Instead, Haché goes its own farm-to-table way with interesting choices like coffee and chili short ribs, lobster ravioli and a roasted pork chop, along with a short list of sandwiches.

As tempting as several of these selections appeared, the specials on the evening we visited sounded even better and inspired us to go off-menu all around. We started with an edamame hummus served with toasted flatbread—pretty much exactly what it sounds like, with soybeans replacing chickpeas as the spotlight legume, but even more delicious than we could have imagined. From there, my companion moved onto a pasta entrée featuring cavatappi, artichokes and Spanish chorizo. Meanwhile, I opted for a seared scallop special that differed slightly from the preparation on the regular menu, but benefited from the same fresh, delectable shellfish superstars.

As we turned our attention to dessert options, the family connection to Paris Bistro came back into play, with a like-minded and similarly sinful selection of éclairs, macaroons, crème brulees and, of course, several flavors of gelato. We ended up sharing a pair of mini chiffon cakes (right-sized torte/mousse combos in pistachio and chocolate), and walked away with a new appreciation for family dynamics. That sweet finish confirmed that, in spite of their differences, these two French eateries certainly sprouted from the same tree.

Haché Moderne Brasserie

524 W. State Street