Best restaurant when someone else is paying (2000)

Papillon Cafe

It's not so much that Papillon is an outrageously priced restaurant -- in fact, the entree portion of the menu is broken down into some manageable payment plans that range from $14 to $26 -- as it is that we want to try all of the courses. We'd like to start with the decadent foie gras and the creamy potage du jour, linger through a Roquefort-drenched salade de maison, then move on to a seafood dish or perhaps the sweetbreads, until a stunning light-as-air cheesecake finally drops us to our knees -- that is, if we've finished sucking down one of the well-chosen bottles of wine from the extensive, and sometimes expensive, wine list. Trying as many things as possible at Papillon is an idea that's apparently taken off, because proprietor Radek Cerny and his chef de cuisine, Frank Kerstetter, have initiated a tasting menu that changes nightly but always costs $59 per person and includes six courses that are chosen by the chef and flawlessly executed by a snip-snap waitstaff. If the person who's paying is a suit or a date, so much the better -- Papillon is one of those rare spots that manages to mix business with pleasure, in a dining room that's comfortable for both. Tell 'em they'd better bring the platinum card. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bean counter.

Readers' choice: Morton's of Chicago


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