The helpful nature present at Mécénat starts before you even get inside. They print the pronunciation of their name [ma-say-nah] on their front window. Once through the door, you quickly understand what this charismatic space is about. A wall of shelves to the left display the wine shop aspect of the establishment, with a wide variety of varietals winding toward the bar. Strings of fairy lights line the ceiling screened by swaths of burlap-like fabric, casting a warm, rustic glow throughout the dining room. The hostess stand is made from deconstructed wine crates and wine bottle sconces line the painted Tuscan wall treatment. It all comes together to create a wonderful warmth that radiated throughout every friendly personality that stopped by the table. That was the intention when Jack and Kelly Hogan, the father-daughter team responsible for Mécénat, opted for the name, which translates to patronage, because they wanted to create an intimate gathering ground for food and wine lovers.
Their success in crafting a menu that realized that vision was apparent when the Tequila Lime Shrimp arrived at our table. Six wild-caught Gulf shrimp are plated in a row, each perched atop a fresh cut jalapeno slice atop a puddle of exquisite garlic tequila sauce, with little sprigs of cilantro rounding out a southof-the-border flavor. The jalapenos can easily be left behind for those who prefer a milder dish, but for those who like spice, it’s an exemplary partner to the freshness of the shrimp.
The Maryland Lump Crab Cakes continued the seafood theme with an incredibly pure rendition of the dish relying on the flavor of fresh crab using only mayonnaise and crackers to bind and build an exterior crunch. The plate is covered in a citrus remoulade sauce that injects a burst of lime, lemon, and orange zest into the front of each bite. The décor of Mécénat clearly suggests an emphasis on wine, and out of all the fantastic pairings poured for us throughout the evening, the ZD Chardonnay from Napa Valley that accompanied the Crab Cakes actually continued to evolve and complexify the dish.
The Baby Spinach Salad combines the light, healthful aspects of spinach, tomato, and avocado with an invigorating honey jalapeno vinaigrette dressing that delivers the flavor of jalapeno without
any of the spice that usually accompanies it. Executive Chef Rob Kurecki then adds deep fried goat cheese fritters, with an incredibly mild and creamy center wrapped inside a warm, crisp shell. It’s a scrumptious addition to the garden fresh flavors on the plate, completely unexpected and thoroughly welcome.
The Seared Scottish Salmon was the most beautifully plated dish of the night.
The pan-kissing pink salmon filet rested on top of a bed of orzo, with orange segments, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and perfectly round dots of balsamic glaze marking a perimeter around the plate. It’s a shame to deface it with the tines of a fork, but that’s the only way to get to the consummate flavors of the dish. The orange segments infuse the orzo with a citrus flavor that runs in tandem with the buttery aspects of the fish. With the bitter bite of the olives and tang of balsamic glaze, it’s a dish both invigorating and fortifying.
The 8-ounce Grass Fed Beef Filet is the essence of savory and smooth, all gathered onto one plate and pushed to their maximum potential. The beef is so tender and juicy; the side of sautéed bacon Brussels Sprouts are at their wood-smoked best; and the whipped potatoes are supremely buttery, injected with the flavor of roasted red pepper, and the whole thing is topped with a mushroom veal demiglacé.
Every element is exceptional on its own but combines with the other flavors on the plate to create a depth of succulent satisfaction that’s hard to match.
For dessert we were treated to the dish for which they appeared on an episode of Chicago’s Best: The Molten Chocolate Lava Cake. It’s a cupcake-sized chocolate cake stuffed with a molten chocolate ganache on top of smears of raspberry, chocolate, and caramel sauce with a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream. The molten center flows across the plate as soon as you get your fork into the moist chocolate cake, the cool sweetness of the ice cream is the perfect call and response to the warm decadence of the chocolate.
From the friendliness of everyone who visits the table, to the soothing wine cellar atmosphere, to the line-up of great recognizable tunes played live on an acoustic guitar on weekends, there’s every reason to visit Mécénat. It’s everything you want in a great night out.
Mécénat is located at 821 W. Burlington Avenue in Western Springs, 708-246-8668, mecenatbistro.com.