Le Colonial, Chicago’s famed Vietnamese restaurant on the Gold Coast, describes itself as “a celebration of the seductive spirit and vivid flavors of 1920’s French Colonial Southeast Asia. Opened in 1996, Le Colonial moved from its Rush Street location of over 20 years to a new location on Oak Street in 2019.

Heralded as “an escapist’s paradise,” complete with palm trees, Le Colonial has a dining room, an all-season terrace overlooking Oak Street, a bar/lounge, and The Monkey Parlour, a private dining room with seating for up to 12 guests. An Open Table reviewer said, “The ambiance and decor reminded us of Raffles in Angkor Wat Cambodia or the Foreign Correspondents Club in Vietnam. Beautiful!!!”

Vietnamese cuisine has been described, as being “all about the yin and yang; the sweet and the salty, the cooling and the warming, the fresh and the fermented.” You can see this fusion in their All-Day Menu, which includes Small Plates like their Bo Bia–chilled vegetable rolls. carrots, jicama, cage-free eggs, shiitake mushrooms, aromatic herbs, and a peanut plum dipping sauce. Or a Banh Uot–sesame beef steamed rice crêpes, with grilled sesame beef, rolled in flat rice noodles; cucumber, lettuce, basil, & lime garlic sauce. Chao Tom is grilled shrimp wrapped around sugar cane, rice noodles, mint, cilantro, lettuce, and peanut plum dipping sauce.

Soups & Salads offer the opportunity to try Pho Bo Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup, which combines seasoned oxtail broth, rice noodles, scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro, and beef tenderloin. Or, for a lighter touch, try Goi Ngo Sen- a salad of lotus root, organic tofu, cucumber, and tomato, with a chili lime soy dressing. Goi Bun So pairs seared sea scallops, garlic egg & rice noodles, and lime vinaigrette.

For larger appetites, there are Large Plates, including Ca Hoi Nuong, which pairs roasted miso-glazed Scottish salmon (served medium rare) with shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy, coconut lobster broth, and annato oil. Bo Luc Lac, also known as shaking beef, is a caramelized filet mignon, served with Valverdi Farm greens, watercress, sweet onions, and lime pepper vinaigrette. 

For a different take on red snapper, Le Colonial’s signature dish is Ca Chien Saigon- a crispy whole red snapper with a spicy, lightly sweet garlic glaze. Many reviewers on Open Table proclaimed it “The best in Chicago!”

Lunches are prix-fixe works of art, from noon-3:45 daily. Start with a traditional Pho, chilled vegetable rolls, or a Banh Cuon- Hanoi steamed rice crêpes, with chicken & wood ear mushrooms, rolled in flat rice noodles, with bean sprouts & Nuoc Cham sauce. Follow it up with Le Colonial’s Banh Hoi Thit Nuong- a thinly sliced & grilled barbecued beef short rib, vermicelli rice noodles, with Nuoc Cham Sauce. Or choose a Mi Xao Don Chay- a vegetable stir-fry with crispy egg noodles, wok-seared leafy greens, pea pods, shiitake mushrooms, organic tofu, and soy ginger sauce.

Following lunch, Le Colonial hosts a Social Hour in The Lounge, Monday – Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm. They offer a variety of light bites and specialty cocktails, including a lychee martini, or a selection of wine and beers, which could be paired with such delicacies as Cha Gio- crispy rice paper rolls of shrimp, pork & Asian mushrooms, mint, cilantro & chili lime dipping sauce. 

Le Colonial is located at 57 E Oak St, Chicago, IL 6061, and is open daily from 12 pm-10 pm. Reservations are highly recommended. For more information, click here.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago