Swell Shells

Escargot and other compelling bites at Maison

"They're from a gentleman who calls himself 'The Snail Man,'" says chef Perry Hendrix of the remarkably plump, mild mollusks he serves as a regular special at the new Maison in Lakeshore East.

The Burgundian imports, produced by a family that has raised snails for generations, are tender and faintly grassy. That attribute is complemented by a verdant puree of fennel, roasted garlic and Green Chartreuse, and a shimmering slick of fennel-garlic butter ($12). The result is a dish reminiscent of, but far more interesting than, the classic escargots de Bourgogne.

Before joining the Custom House Tavern team (who also own the nouveau diner Eggy's), Hendrix opened Brasserie in St. Louis. His cherished memories of staging at The French Laundry include daily meals at Bouchon. In other words: Hendrix knows his French standards.

Order a bottle of French rosé to sip with the snails and other gently updated bistro standbys, like duck rillettes bound by silky whipped duck fat ($9), and steak tartare studded with capers, shallots and preserved lemon ($14).

Though it's hard to imagine in the summer heat, steaming onion soup ($8) is a worthy venture, its deep flavor courtesy of onions caramelized for a whopping eight hours.

Maison, 333 E. Randolph St.; 312-241-1540 or maisonbrasserie.com