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SAVOR Le Colonial; Benny's bar bites
DISH Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

While that phrase may seem a bit contradictory, it's the truth when it comes to Gold Coast French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial ( 57 E. Oak St.; ), which has recently undergone a major alteration: namely, its address. Le Colonial has moved from its longtime Rush Street spot—around the corner to Oak Street.

And while a move might cause some disruption or change when it comes to aspects such as quality of service or cuisine, neither has apparently happened with Le Colonial, which still continues to impress on both fronts.

Having lunch there recently, I temporarily felt as if I had been teleported to Vietnam—or even the set of a film such as Indochine. Everything from the placement of paintings to the use of certain plants helped convey an almost tropical feel.

As for drinks, the Chanh Day ( Grey Goose vodka, passionfruit and fresh lime ) is suitably refreshing, and I predict many requests for this during the summer months—and imagine yourself having one of these while dining on the balcony. Other intriguing-sounding cocktails include the Eternal Spring ( Grey Goose Le Poire, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, cucumber, pear and basil ) and the mango margarita. In addition, there are some cool mocktails ( named after the seasons ), such as the Mua Xuan ( "spring" ), which mixes blackberries, lemon juice, Sprite and mint. For those who want beer and/or wine, there are also plenty of choices.

Lunch was delicious, to say the least—and it might be hard for diners to pick a favorite item. Appetizers include bo bia ( soft salad rolls with carrots, jicama, bean sprouts, egg, peanuts and herbs, with peanut dipping sauce ), cha gio ( spring rolls of shrimp, pork and Asian mushrooms, with chili-lime dipping sauce ) and banh cuon ( steamed ravioli of chicken and mushrooms, with chili-lime dipping sauce ).

There's also a pretty cool line-up of salads ( all served over mesclun greens ). Try the goi bun so ( grilled sea-scallop salad with egg noodles, garlic rice noodles and lime vinaigrette ) or the very good bo luc lac ( warm, seared filet mignon over watercress with red-wine vinaigrette ). And for the entrees, I urge you to try Le Colonial's signature chicken fried rice; not only is it delicious in the restaurant—but it tastes wonderful even after taking it home and microwaving the dish. However, there are plenty of other options, including ca nuong ( grilled salmon over vermicelli noodles ) and com bo ( basically, the bo luc lac with egg and tomato rice ).

Even dessert is lovely. While I experienced the opera cake ( supremely delicious ), others may want to try the chocolate mousse cake, creme brÃğlée, lemon tart and other offerings.

Benny's bar bites

When it comes to deciding where to stop after work, you may want to consider Benny's Chop House ( 444 N. Wabash Ave.; ), which offers cool cocktails ( like the Viscous Hibiscus ), live music—and some mouth-watering ( and affordable ) dishes.

Bacon nachos ( $10.99 ) can feed two or three people, and come with organic blue chips as very thick chunks of meat. However, as good as the nachos are, the lobster grilled cheese ( $16.99 ) is almost too good ( and rich ) for words; I actually had to silently enjoy the first couple bites—and my dining partner understood. Top things off with a lemon tart ( and opt for a limoncello with it ).

By the way, Benny's has some new dishes, including wild Canadian whitefish, prosciutto-wrapped sea scallops and that aforementioned tart.

Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.

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