12/18/2009Provided by Citysearch -
The Elysian made no small plans and unquestionably stirred men?s souls. Balsan elevates hotel drinking to a new level of gourmet and if they perform with their food even a fraction as well then we salute them.
We arrived at 7PM for a few drinks and appetizers. We had no reservations and would have been happy anywhere there was room for 5. In the world of trendy hotel bars, such poor planning can be treated 2 ways: Like a club or like a hotel. The former method involves cavalier disdain or even denied entry (exhibit A: The Mondrian West Hollywood) or the latter (Sunset Tower WeHo) ? two polar opposites of one another located in the same neighborhood, on the same strip and presumably competing for the same dollars. Case studies like the Mondrian are few in Chicago but not null (read: W Lakeshore) and if ever there was a hotel to capitalized on its hype and step into snooty shoes the Elysian was it. It didn?t.
The Elysian staff is there to help. Sometimes comically so. A small army of valets rushes your vehicle as you make the elaborate arc around the largest parking courtyard the city has ever seen. For $23/hour they could vacuum it too or something. There is someone waiting to intercept you at the door to help with directions. He/she is not overbearing if you seem to know where you?re going. At Balsan, the hosts sadly informed us that all the tables were, in fact, reserved (none were taken). But the bar was perhaps the better choice. Let us reserve full analysis until after the first full meal but the high-level overview is excellent.
The drinks are priced correctly for Rush Street and perhaps even underpriced. Why? Because they do love them so. I watched as each of the Night/Day Cocktails received 4-5 ingredients and an average 5 minutes of bartender attention. It was great but this certainly won?t scale. 5 more people at the bar would quickly overwhelm the bartenders. To reduce the demand price such drinks at $18 and not 12. The manager told me that they do not use mixers and even make their own tonic. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I thought, don?t cheap out on the prep work after the first month. No one is gonna wait 10 minutes for a vodka-tonic.
Independent of my prophesies, what we had we loved. Stay tuned for the full review after we get a chance to eat here.