Don't panic, vegetarians.
The all-meat entree list makes it look like there aren't any options for vegetarians, but if you scan back up to the appetizer section, there are two veggie-friendly apps that are also served in entree portions. Ratatouille ($16), a traditional French stew, is full of ripe zucchini, asparagus and dried cherries, with a hit of spice (As to exactly what spices, Njike wouldn't confess, but he said he plans to take trips back to Africa every few months to bring back spices to use at the restaurant). Apple and beet risotto ($23) is satisfyingly creamy and cheesy, but it's without the obvious presence of either apples or beets.
Bottom line: I can't help but compare Alain's to other South Loop newcomers with entrees in the $20 range, and the truth is that it doesn't yet measure up to nearby gems such as Acadia. With some fine-tuning of dishes and more of an effort from staff to clue diners into the special stories behind them, it has the potential to grow into a neighborhood favorite.
About Alain ...
You could say that running a restaurant is in Alain Njike's blood: He grew up in a restaurant family in Cameroon and went on to study hotel management in Paris. "When I first moved to the United States, I didn't even know how to speak English," he said. His first job in Chicago was as a dishwasher at Hinky Dink Kenna's, a restaurant that operated below Marshall Field's. He went on to work in both kitchen and front-of-the-house gigs at Charlie Trotter's, the Peninsula Hotel, Nomi and Park 52 before opening Alain's in the South Loop on Aug. 3.
Also new nearby ...
Alain's is just a few steps away from fellow South Loop newcomers Square One and City Tavern. Read our mini-reviews of both spots at redeyechicago.com.
Reviews are unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. email@example.com | @redeyeeats