I guess it was just an illusion.
Walking into Bacchus Nibbles' new space in Lake Zurich, the restaurant certainly seemed bigger.
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Bacchus Nibbles800 W. Main St., Lake Zurich
(847) 438-3212; bacchusnibbles.com
Cuisine: Contemporary American
Setting: Casual space rimmed with wine racks
Entrees: $14.50 to $24.75
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Tuesday to Saturday
For 20 years, the restaurant occupied an aging building at Quentin and Rand roads in Kildeer. Late in 2013 the owners moved a few miles west to Route 22 (Main Street) and Rand Road in Lake Zurich. (The land was bought by IDOT and the building will be torn down to make way for intersection improvements, owner Matt Hawes said.)
Anyway, the old building just seemed so awkward -- a cramped entry right next to the kitchen door -- and in need of renovations on my 2007 visit. This new spot at 800 W. Main St., however, blew me away. Yes, it sits in a strip mall, but don't hold that against it. It boasts a visible corner spot and a patio that will make al fresco dining an attractive option when the weather warms.
We walked into a beautiful space rimmed with gently draped floor-to-ceiling windows and a granite-topped bar accented by layered stone walls. There's a flat screen TV, but the game-of-the-night certainly isn't the focus here. Much of the art and the wine racks from the previous outpost were re-purposed so regulars will feel right at home.
Guest can sidle up to the bar (there are more seats here than at the old location) for a cocktail or Sauvignon Blanc, get comfortable at one of several high-topped tables, or settle into a traditional table on the other side of the space.
And believe it or not, there are fewer seats, Hawes assures me, in part because there's no private room which was on the second level of the old building. Who knew?
The menu, however, is no illusion. With chef Leobardo Sevrin still at the helm (he's been with Hawes nearly 20 years), Bacchus Nibbles continues to serve well-crafted, contemporary American fare.
My group of four started our meal with wine -- fairly priced California and French grapes weight the menu -- and the appetizer platter. The phyllo-goat cheese bites were a hit, as were the coconut-battered shrimp, much more so than the fried green beans that we added to the order. The breaded, crisply cooked beans are listed on the "sides" menu, but could do double duty as a nice veggie starter had they been dipped in a light tempura batter instead of cloaked in batter more suited for mozzarella sticks.
Other appetizers include bruschetta, shrimp cocktail and spinach and artichoke dip.
Burgers, sandwiches and salads are available for lunch or lighter dinners. The mango chicken salad was a gem: a brightly flavored shareable plate with a fruity vinaigrette.
I was pleased to see the duck tenderloin didn't get lost in the move. Sevrin slices planks of breast meat and rolls them in an almond and coconut crust before tossing them in the fryer. These are so tasty that even my chicken nugget-loving son munched on the leftovers. The peanut sauce and vegetable and rice pilaf nicely round out the plate.
Schnitzel made with beef tenderloin, portobello ravioli and tilapia baked in phyllo are other solid customer favorites, but we swayed toward the bay scallops. The tender bite-sized scallops come sauteed and tossed in a creamy curry of well-balanced Thai spices.
The waitstaff followed Hawes to the new spot and hasn't lost a beat. Our waiter asked all the right questions and directed us toward enjoyable wines that paired well with our entrees.
We could hardly find a discouraging word about the meal until dessert. We ordered the signature dessert, creme brulee, and the evening's special chocolate creme brulee. While I've been pleased with the creme brulee before, on this visit both versions were disappointingly soupy.
I'll put my faith in Bacchus -- the Roman god of wine -- that the creme brulee will be better next time.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.