2419 west 14th street
chicago, il 60608
- el ideas is a small (20 seats?) restaurant located on a back alley street in an industrial area of chicago's southwest side
- the name is short for elevated ideas in cuisine and dining, and is also a tribute to the city's transit system
- the man behind the project is phillip foss, who has spent time cooking in new york, hawaii, france, brazil, israel, and bermuda
- before opening el ideas, foss used the space as a prep kitchen for his food truck, meatyballs mobile
- reservations are taken via both phone and email, and can be made two months in advance
- the menu is a 10-12 course tasting ($145), and diners are charged one week prior to the meal
- one seating per night
- el ideas holds three stars from the chicago tribune, and was recently featured on bizarre foods
after confirming via email that reservations for april opened on february 1st, i sent another email early that morning and my request was confirmed in just a few hours. finding the restaurant was relatively easy, but since no parking was available in front of the restaurant, we had to park around the corner and down a block or two. with some concerns about the safety of our car, we made our way to the restaurant, walking in 15 minutes early for the 7:30 seating. we were given the opportunity to choose our table, and selected one providing a great view of the kitchen. once everyone was present and seated, chef foss introduced himself and his team, and after a few words about the concept, the meal began.
turbot - dungeoness / tapioca / sorrel
octopus - red onion / cucumber / caper
peas - buttermilk / coppa / lavender
black cod - allium / rye / turmeric
oyster - smoked duck / kimchee / mushroom
sweetbreads - celery root / hazelnut / licorice
lamb - green garlic / olives / hay
rhubarb - ginger / strawberry / black pepper
el ideas is really more of a dinner party than a traditional restaurant, and as such things from a service standpoint are considerably different. the dining area is handled by a gentleman named bill, who serves as a host, waiter, wine steward, dj, and all around awesome guy. dishes are delivered to the tables by the chefs, and are described by whoever is responsible for the creation.
from the nights opening bites of caviar with bone marrow to the liquid bacon filled chocolate that concluded the meal, the food at el ideas blew me away. my two favorite dishes were the turbot poached in dill and the octopus course which had insane amount of different flavors. there were really no low points in the meal, but i did find the pea course to merely "good".
there is nothing better than going into a meal with high expectations, and having them met or even exceed. that is exactly what happened at el ideas, and i am certain that i will return at some point. the fact that the michelin guide overlooked this restaurant is absurd, as the food is closer to two star cooking than zero.