I asked LM co-owner Nicole Quaisser what the new partnership will mean to customers. She said they’re very excited about the partnership. That Martial, a long-time Chicago guy, and she and Stephan have known each other for a long time. “We are a French company,” she said, “and we love the idea of having a French partner.”
I told Nicole how much I loved the look and feel of the 111 W. Huron location when I visited LM Bistro recently. I heard they’d done a recent revamp of the space, so I asked her about it. Nicole said their original LM in Lincoln Square was a much smaller space with a very warm and welcoming ambiance. Because the current location has very high ceilings, they did a few things to cozy it up, but returning customers kept remarking they missed the warm and cozy feeling.
“Our new approach was to divide the space to create several smaller rooms and rearrange seating to break up individual areas,” said Nicole. “Plus we also revamped the lighting to make the space feel warmer.” A truly great job in my book. Bulletin: As of January 8, the 111 W. Huron location (formerly LM Bistro) has been christened Troquet River North. This is one of the first changes to come out of the partnership.
I asked Nicole about her background and experience. “My husband and I have built the LM group together,” she said, “and we both have extensive experience. We both worked in hotels – from housekeeping to dishwashing. We know how to do everything – and how important each position is.”
Nicole says she is more into the sales and PR side of building the business. “I make connections and focus on gaining repeat business. Stephan is more of a concepter – choosing things from France to do here. We complement each other,” she said.
LM and Bistronomic owners want to combine what Americans recognize as French with what is actually going on in France today. I asked if that related more to types of restaurants or to menu choices.
“There are two aspects,” said Nicole. “The American market has presumed French dining is always fine dining – fancy tablecloths, stuffy attitudes, etc.” But as the new partners all know, she said, the French aren’t always going out for fine dining. They also go to the bar and have cheese and so on. LM offers Troquet as a model of a French neighborhood bar, a place to go for a drink and a snack. Brasserie by LMis more a brewery or diner. Bistro as used in France is different from here. Bistro is still casual but presents more of the higher-end dining experience.
“All our restaurants are at different price points,” she said, “but they all offer attentive service and strict attention to detail.” With Martial coming on board, she said they’ll be doing more things that are going on in France, such as smaller, neighborhood places. Martial told them that the young folks in France tend to go to small places like Troquet – a different level, more affordable than higher-end French food in the market.
As to the sorts of dishes customers can expect to be seeing in the new LM restaurants, Nicole said Martial and the chefs are working an actual menus right now. “He wants to bring experimental, market-fresh, local produce, so different things may pop up on menu any time, changing all the time. All truly French. The brasserie has more traditional menu items. LM Bistro may have a few new items.” They will also focus on French catering. Check out the LM reception catering menu available for 10 or more guests. “We’ll be upscaling that a little bit,” she said.
Judging from past experience at LM Bistro and at Troquet, this promises to be a fun time for Chicago French food lovers.