The Fixe is In

Appears in the September 2021 issue.

 By Peter Gianopulos

A restaurant committed to a true “seasonal dining” experience should never, says Vie chef owner Paul Virant, simply quarter up the calendar into just four seasons. Such simple divisions might’ve benefitted Vivaldi, but not diners. Better, Virant says, to think in terms of microseasons—perhaps early, middle, and late summer. Or those fleeting folds of time when individual varieties of produce—some familiar, others exotic—yield their most dynamic flavors.

The opportunity to showcase the bounty of different microseasons motivated Virant to transform Vie, in Clarendon Hills, into a prix fixe experience. Now, guests craft their own three-course meals—starter, middle courses, and entrée—from nine options for just $55. Desserts come à la carte, but his meals marry gourmet proteins with fruits and veggies picked at the height of their powers. 

Think summery stews made with fava beans, grilled onion, and preserved nightshades. Or seared scallops laureled with snap peas and homemade togarashis. In the fall: Dishes inspired by the short growing season of currants. Salads made with extra-peppery trevisso. Or beans of every shade paired with slow-cooked lamb or pan-roasted walleye. 

“The exciting thing, for us, is the flexibility it gives us to create an ever-evolving menu,” says Virant, “as well as the value a $55 meal provides our guests.” 

Photo courtesy Vie