Tour Obelix, the modern French restaurant in River North
Although the brothers have extensive restaurant experience through family businesses, Obelix, which opens Friday in River North, is the first French restaurant that Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey have built from scratch.
The two continue to operate Le Bouchon in Bucktown, and now they’ve taken over the space that once belonged to the Michelin-starred Entente, one of the first victims of the pandemic. The Entente only occupied the newly constructed space for over a year, so it didn’t need serious upgrades. The owners have done their best to add a little more light to the space, adding a customary Burgundian banquette that stretches from one side of the restaurant to the other.
In some ways, their father, Jean-Claude, would have appreciated his sons’ vision. Jean-Claude and his wife Susanne founded two of the city’s most beloved French bistros, La Sardine in the West Loop and Le Bouchon. Obelix retains some of that cozy ambiance of a neighborhood restaurant. Oliver Poilevey says they brought former La Sardine bartender John with them to the new space. He hopes they can build up a loyal local clientele.
In other ways, some choices may have caused dear old dad pause. Take Nicolas Poilevey’s wine selections: the father insisted on a 100% French menu. Obelix’s offer will be mainly French, but with a few American producers.
Then there is the foie gras taco. Oliver Poilevey experimented with the object at Taqueria Chingón in Logan Square. He takes a “big ass” piece of liver, grabs it, and nestles in a fresh blue corn tortilla. He adds a little Concord grape jam to balance the sweet and salty. It’s almost like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with macha, peanuts, and chili oil topping it all off.
“It’s really good,” said Oliver Poivey. “It’s ‘shit’ good. It’s gonna be the most expensive taco in Chicago.
It comes in at $23 on the opening menu. It might better represent what Obelix is all about: blending French cuisine with the unique American experiences of a Chicago resident.
And though Oliver Poilevey says the taco is “pretty fiery,” he admits his dad probably wouldn’t have approved of its presence on Obelix’s menu: “He would have laughed,” his son says, and then he’d respond in saying he wouldn’t have a place on Le Bouchon’s map.
But that doesn’t mean Obelix will shun traditional cooking. Bouchon’s famous French onion soup is on the menu. There’s also a boar pâté, Obelix is named after a French comic book character, and boar is what it’s known for, says Oliver Poilevey. He works with Nathan Kim (Sixteen, Bellemore, Jeong) as a sous chef.
Another exciting development is a section on the menu devoted to duck. The facility was equipped with three cold rooms. The kitchen staff has dedicated one to dry-aged meats. Poilevey says the duck is his favorite animal to cook with.
The desserts won’t be an afterthought either. Chicago doesn’t have too many dessert bars where diners can specifically stop for a sweet non-alcoholic nightcap. Obélix has everything you need for this type of establishment. The pastry chef is Antonio Incadella, and his resume includes a long stint at Spiaggia, one of the city’s top Italian restaurants before it closed. Oliver Poilevey was blown away by the soufflés and fresh ice cream desserts.
Take a look at the space in the photos below. Obélix opens on Friday, May 6.
Obelix, 700 N. Sedgwick Street, opening Friday, May 6. Reservations through Resy open Thursday.