Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2017: Dinner at Celeste

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2017, held January 27–February 9. View all of this year’s meal recaps, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage from 2013-17.

Shake & Fries, Celeste

Shake & Fries with french fry panna cotta, nutella mousse, and fry crumbles

Best Bite: I’d only been to Celeste for drinks in their rooftop garden, but hadn’t yet tried the food. The “Shake & Fries” dessert was probably the most intriguing and bizarre item on any of my destinations’ menus this year, described as a French fry panna cotta with Nutella mousse and fry crumbles. But, surprise! The sweet and salty worked very well, just like dipping fries into a chocolate Frosty. The parfait was a little precarious to eat at first, given the mountain of fry pieces on top, but it was worth it once you were able to dig down for a bite of all three components together.

Eggplant involtini, Celeste

Eggplant involtini with eggplant, ricotta, goat, & pecorino cheese, seasonal veggies, tomato sauce, and crostini

Other notes: My other favorite dish was the eggplant involtini, mostly because of the garlicky marinara and the three kinds of cheese inside the rolled eggplant slices.The bulgogi lamb chops were also a nice starter, with lots of glazed veggies on the side.

Bulgogi lamb chops, Celeste

Bulgogi lamb chops with honey glazed romanesco and baby carrots

The details: Celeste, 111 W. Hubbard St., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2017: Dinner at ZED451

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2017, held January 27–February 9. View all of this year’s meal recaps, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage from 2013-17.

Butterscotch bread pudding, ZED451

Butterscotch bread pudding with housemade marshmallow

Best Bite: This was my first time back at ZED451 since Restaurant Week 2014. The all-you-can-eat strategy for salads and meats still made it Restaurant Week’s best value, but interestingly, dessert is what stole the show for me on this latest visit. A housemade marshmallow disc was bruléed on top of the butterscotch bread pudding in the most exceptional way, fully melted inside but still holding its crisp exterior.

Harvest table, ZED451

Salads, cheeses, charcuterie, and more from the harvest table

Other notes: Just as before, the harvest table was overwhelming. I especially enjoyed the veggie salads, from beets to carrots to brussels sprouts, and also the array of cheeses with fig and apricot accompaniments. All three meats served tableside – sirloin steak, glazed salmon, and Moroccan-spiced chicken – were even better than I remembered. My next visit may have to be during brunch, which is also unlimited and around the same Restaurant Week price point.

Char-grilled sirloin, ZED451

Char-grilled sirloin, served tableside with Moroccan chicken and Szechuan-glazed salmon

The details: ZED451, 739 N. Clark St., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2017: Dinner at Gene & Georgetti

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2017, held January 27–February 9. View all of this year’s meal recaps, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage from 2013-17.

Broiled filet mignon, Gene & Georgetti

Broiled filet mignon with sautéed spinach

Best Bite: Gene & Georgetti proudly boasts the title of Chicago’s oldest steakhouse. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t seem to have changed very much from when it opened in 1941. Not surprisingly, the steak was the star of the meal. The filet had the right amount of well-seasoned crust, and the garlicky spinach on the side kept with the no-frills theme.

Crab cake, Gene & Georgetti

Housemade crab cake with remoulade

Other notes: The crab cake was classically prepared, with zesty remoulade and old-school garnishes. And as our group wrapped up the meal with tiramisu and coffee, you could almost hear the decades of Chicago business conversations echoing off the dark wood paneling.

Tiramisu and coffee, Gene & Georgetti

Tiramisu and coffee

The details: Gene & Georgetti, 500 N. Franklin St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

This week’s Best Bite: Alice Fay draft cocktail, Tippling Hall

This Best Bite is one of the 20 foods and 15 drinks I’ve set out to taste and document in 2015. View the full list to see my plan and progress.

Alice Fay draft cocktail, Tippling Hall

Alice Fay draft cocktail with Finlandia vodka, pecan-brown sugar syrup, lemon, and Old Style lager

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: On my first visit to Tippling Hall, I was immediately intrigued by (and I’ll admit, skeptical of) a draft cocktail that featured Old Style beer, and it turned out to be so fun and memorable that I planned another group outing there partially so that I could order this drink again. The Old Style lager flavor is immediately detectable, but is then mellowed and complemented by lemon, vodka, and pecan-brown sugar syrup. It’s a strange sensation to describe, but this refined cocktail immediately transported me to the sun-drenched bleachers at a summer Cubs game. The salty rim and sticky-sweet pecan brittle garnish, which my friend described as the best brittle she’d ever had, not only enhanced the nutty notes from the syrup, but also further evoked the ballpark spirit.

The details: Tippling Hall, 646 N. Franklin St., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: Dinner at Tanta

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, held January 30–February 12. Check out recaps from 2014 and 2013, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

Tanta Dinner

Cebiche clasico, Tanta

Cebiche clasico with mahi mahi, red onions, cilantro, habenero, and natural leche de tigre

Best Bite: Between this meal and my previous visit, I’ve really fallen in love with Tanta’s take on Peruvian cuisine. An eclectic set of culinary influences – Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, French – make for an irresistible mix of flavors and ingredients. The classic mahi mahi cebiche was bright and balanced with additional unique texture from the hominy. The alfajor dessert also might have been the best I ate during Restaurant Week this year. I couldn’t get enough of the dulce de leche and hot chocolate sauce together.

Alfajor, Tanta

Alfajor with shortbread cookies, lucuma dulce de leche, hot chocolate sauce, and vanilla bean ice cream

Other notes: Many of Tanta’s cocktails involve pisco, the national spirit of Peru, and they are not to be missed. This pisco punch exploded with cinnamon and lime, and I was immediately transported to warmer climates. The basket of plantain chips was also a great bread basket substitute.

Pisco punch and plantain chips, Tanta

Pisco punch with porton mosto verde pisco, zucca,
lime, cinnamon, and cusquena beer, plus a basket of plantain chips

The details: Tanta, 118 W. Grand Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

This week’s Best Bite: Salted Carame’L’ concrete, Shake Shack

This Best Bite is one of the 20 foods and 15 drinks I’ve set out to taste and document in 2015. View the full list to see my plan and progress.

Salted Carame"L" concrete, Shake Shack

Concrete with vanilla custard, banana, and Glazed & Infused salted caramel old fashioned doughnut

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I’ve never had the wear-withal to stand in line at the original Shake Shack in New York’s Madison Square Park (or any other location, for that matter), so I was happy to finally make it to the 2-month-old Chicago outpost. On this visit, I had my eye on dessert; specifically, the creamy frozen custard that’s just as beloved as the burgers and fries. The Salted Carame”L” concrete was spun with sizable hunks of banana and salted caramel doughnut, but still kept the focus on the sublime vanilla custard base. As one of the Chicago-exclusive concrete flavors – which explains its punny name – the doughnuts are locally sourced from Glazed and Infused, and a portion of sales support the Greater Chicago Food Depository. My only regret is that I didn’t snag a few of Shake Shack’s crinkle-cut fries to dip into the custard, Wendy’s Frosty–style, for the ultimate in sweet and salty.

The details: Shake Shack, 66 E. Ohio St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #13: Potato pancakes, Bohemian House

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Potato pancakes, Bohemian House

Potato pancakes with cured salmon, apple preserves, kohlrabi, and dill

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: These miniature potato pancakes were a bright, balanced way to start dinner at this eclectic River North newcomer. The crunchy kohlrabi mimicked the texture of apple – which instead appeared in the form of sweet preserves – and both flavors fit beautifully with the salmon and dill.

The details: Bohemian House, 11 W. Illinois St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #10: Fried chicken and waffles, GT Fish & Oyster

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Fried chicken and waffles, GT Fish & Oyster

Fried chicken and waffles with Burton’s maplewood farm syrup

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Tucked amongst GT Fish & Oyster’s menu of generally seafood-leaning brunch dishes is their perfectly executed version of chicken and waffles. The generously battered chicken stayed exceedingly juicy atop fluffy waffles, all drizzled with pure maple syrup.

View another brunch Best Bite from GT Fish & Oyster.

The details: GT Fish & Oyster, 531 N. Wells St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

This week’s Best Bite: Bag of crisps & eggs and grilled octopus & housemade spam, Bottlefork

Grilled octopus and housemade spam, Bottlefork

Grilled octopus and housemade spam with brussels sprout kim chee and sugar snap peas

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: A friend suggested Bottlefork for a long-overdue get-together, and we were able to duck in early on a weeknight. I was excited to be able to order Goose Island’s Devon Ave. Pale Ale on draft, an addictive limited release that’s brewed with chai tea, cardamom, and other Indian spices. Out of all the small plates we shared, the grilled octopus was my favorite. Tender octopus and well-spiced cubes of housemade spam – which thankfully bore little resemblance to its canned counterpart – soaked up a funky, acidic sauce that also contained sugar snap peas and fermented brussels sprouts. The eclectic combination of ingredients kept me going back for another spicy, vinegary bite.

Bag of crisps and eggs, Bottlefork

“Bag” of crisps and eggs with malt vinegar powder

The biggest surprise, though, was the first bite of the meal, which was listed on the menu as “Bag” of Crisps and Eggs. The seemingly unnecessary quotation marks actually hinted at the unconventional tableside preparation: the server arrived with a small brown bag full of chips and a soft-poached egg in a separate container; he then slid the egg into the bag, shook the bag vigorously, and poured the bag’s contents out onto a plate. What looked like just a pile of soggy, glossy potato chips turned out to be incredibly delicious. Somehow, the mixture of egg, potato, and zingy malt vinegar powder made the not-so-crispy texture work in the dish’s favor.

The details: Bottlefork, 441 N. Clark St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

This week’s Best Bite: Soft-scrambled eggs, salmon tartare & grilled mushrooms, Kinmont

Soft-scrambled eggs, Kinmont

Soft-scrambled eggs with smoked Lake Superior whitefish, salmon roe, chives, and country bread

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I was excited to try Kinmont, a new seafood place that recently opened just blocks from my office, and certainly support the restaurant’s commitment to serving entirely sustainable fish. I’d already heard great things about the soft-scrambled eggs; and sure enough, the eggs’ texture was creamy and light without being runny, perfect for spreading on the thick country bread. The eggs were also studded with both smoked whitefish and salmon roe, a double-punch of seafood flavor. Another favorite, the Skuna bay salmon tartare, covered a more Nordic flavor profile: fresh fish intermingled with mustard, cornichon, egg, and lots of dill. The tartare was served with sturdy, herbaceous flatbread that had great crunch.

Salmon tartare, Kinmont

Skuna Bay salmon tartare with cornichons, shallots, mustard, and crisp bread

We also wanted to try one of the vegetable sides, and were immediately intrigued by the pairing of grilled mushrooms and smoked ricotta. The char from the grill and the smoky, rich ricotta played off each other to give the woody mushrooms surprising depth, and a generous shower of lemon zest added brightness.

Mushrooms, Kinmont

Grilled mushrooms with smoked buttermilk ricotta and lemon

The details: Kinmont, 419 W. Superior, Chicago.

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