The new wine bar offers a superb wine list for the connoisseur and the neophyte alike
1400 S. Congress, 225-0521
Tuesday-Thursday, 8am-11pm; Friday-Saturday, 8am-12mid; Sunday, 10am-6pm; closed Monday
Cissi's has seemed like a moving target since it opened as an upscale neighborhood grocery in 2007. Changes were made a few months back, and it appears to have found the right focus, cutting the market to about a quarter of its original size and boosting up the wine selection and a menu of prepared and in-house served foods. The new Cissi's has a killer wine list, heavy on obscure Old World wines, with a menu designed to match well with them.
Let's start with the wine. It's at mostly fair prices, a tad over what you'd pay in a liquor store if you could find these wines. Like most wine bars in town, Cissi's will open any bottle of wine if you buy two glasses from that bottle, which basically means half a bottle for half the cost of a bottle. Wine prices are labeled on the racks, but if you take the wine out, it costs $10 less, sort of a reverse way of saying Cissi's is charging a $10 corkage fee (all quoted prices are for drinking on premise). If you only want one glass, Cissi's offers 16 wines by the glass, ranging from a red $6 Indicazione Geografica Tipica from Tuscany to a $12 glass of Morey-Coffinet Chassagne-Montrachet.
The menu offers salads, sandwiches, creative appetizers and cheese plates, daily specials, plus Faith Chan's exemplary desserts (have the Belgian Ale Doughnuts). During the day, diners are welcome to put in a to-go order at the back counter and enjoy free Wi-Fi while eating inside or out. At night, Cissi's goes into Italian mode and charges a little more to eat in the dining room (it offers full table service, and that's how Cissi's pays for it). Almost all of the dishes are designed to match up nicely with the wines. The house-cured Gravlax Plate ($14) is a classic combo for the Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé ($31), although the Pascal Jolivet Chateau du Nozay Sancerre ($37) would be my choice. The duck confit salad ($15) has a duck leg that would match nicely with a Pinot Noir such as the Grosjean Vallee d'Aoste Vigne Tzeriat ($52), but Cissi's adds cucumber and apples, so go for the Leth Roter Veltliner ($46), an Austrian wine with white pepper and wet rocks.
Cissi's has several staffers who are experts at helping you match your wines and foods, and it's worth taking advantage of the service. Ask the staff to show you the hidden treasures, especially the scrumptious dessert wine from France, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise ($33).
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