Wed. March 26, 2008 12:00 AM
by Caroline Ahn

Offering contemporary American fare in a warm, inviting atmosphere, Sepia has made quite a presence in the West Loop neighborhood in short time. The restaurant has been open for less than one year, delivering patrons an elegant dining experience.

Atmosphere : French-native food lover and Sepia Owner Emmanuel Nony integrated old elements in a refined and contemporary space. Large gorgeous chandeliers adorn the ceiling of the restaurant and are a striking contrast to the rustic tables, dim lighting and comfortable seating. The environment is highly recommended for a romantic date, business dinner or a small group gathering. Valet parking is available.

Drinks : The restaurant's wine cellar is quite extensive and features smaller producers from all over the world. The libations menu is very impressive, with unique offerings only to be found at Sepia. The Blood Orange Pisco Sour is a sweet blend of blood orange pisco brandy, fresh lemon sour, egg white and house-made blood orange bitters. The Pear Nectar is a fine mixture of pear green tea infused Plymouth gin, agave nectar, fresh lemon and egg white.

Eats : Formerly serving as the sous chef at NoMi and on the opening team of Tru, Executive Chef Kendall Duque has created a fantastic menu of contemporary American dishes. The Flat Bread appetizers are perfectly portioned for two people and pack a lot of flavor in each bite. The applewood smoked bacon, pears and blue cheese provided a wonderful contrast of sweet and savory that leaves a craving for just one more bite.

The Steak Tartar portion is quite generous. Prepared with a raw farm egg yolk and pickled shallots, each bite is delicate and melts in the mouth. The braised short ribs entrée was flavorful and slow-cooked to perfection. The tender cut of beef was served in a hot cast-iron dish, nicely accompanied with wide, whole wheat pasta ribbons and baby potatoes.

Entrees range from $20 to $30.

Service : The staff at Sepia is attentive and warm and shows no sign of pretentiousness. Servers are well-versed in the menu, make wonderful suggestions and keep glasses full.

Dress : Dress to impress; business casual. Jeans are not recommended

Sepia; 123 N Jefferson Street, Chicago. Phone: 312.441.1920; www.sepiachicago.com