Friday, March 7, 2014

senza - chicago, il
2873 north broadway street
chicago, il 60657

while i have been aware of senza for some time, i will admit that i had originally written the restaurant off due to it's gluen free menu. i started paying attention to senza after it was awarded a michelin star for 2014 and decided to give the lakeview restaurant a shot on my most recent visit to chicago. after starting with a fantastic bourbon/thai chili cocktail, the tasting menu began and was phenomenal from beginning to end. naming standout dishes isn't really possible, as it would literally be three-quarters of the menu, but i will note that my absolute favorite course was the scallop dish with foie gras, blueberry, granola, and oxalis. never once did i miss gluten, and i am quite positive that i would have not been able to tell senza was a gluten free restaurant had i not known going in. chef sandoval's cooking is definitely worthy of a michelin star and ranks very highly amongst the other chicago based restaurants bearing that distinction.
oyster amuse bouche

hamachi - flavors of michelada

scallop - foie gras, blueberry, granola, oxalis

parsnip - lobster, guanicale, cherry, horseradish

caraway rye bread

loup de mer - artichoke, lime, marjoram, paprika

pork belly - lingonberry, coriander, celeriac, szechuan pepper

wagyu - enoki, sesame, dashi, nuoc cham

agnolotti - hedgehog, kumquat, huckleberry, thyme

lamb - black garlic, grape, almond, anise hyssop

bonus cheese course

oatmeal - pine nut, apricot, sherry, tangerine lace

chocolate - butterscotch, raspberry, rosemary, pumpkin seed

Thursday, March 6, 2014

42 grams - chicago, il
4662 broadway street
chicago, il 60640

dinner at 42 grams was the impetus for this somewhat unplanned trip to chicago. i was aware of chef jake bickelhaupt's underground dining project sous rising, and when i got word that he was opening a legit restaurant, it immediately jumped to the top of my list of places in chicago to visit. the restaurant's name is rooted in the theory that the human soul weighs 21 grams, with the sum of jake and his wife alexa's souls equaling 42. my initial thought was that the name was a bit precious, but by the end of the meal it became evident how fitting it really is.

every part of the experience (food, service, space, badass soundtrack) was extremely personal and accomplished jake and alexa's goal of creating a restaurant that really felt more like a dinner party. unlike other chef's counter restaurants i have been to (atera, catbird seat), all eight diners are seated at the same time and everyone is served at once. this helped create more of a group environment, and as such, there was a lot more chatting between diners throughout the night. when the meal came to a close, the entire group stayed around drinking wine and conversing loosely with each other as well as jake and alexa.

as for the food, i went in with high hopes and was not disappointed. things got going with some small "crispy snacks" featuring a standout vidalia onion "parchment" before transitioning into a fantastic deconstructed gin cocktail.  from there, we were served a rich potato soup course with caviar that was presented with a story about jake's childhood. a winter salad plated with a delicate beet macaroon and rich quail egg came next and was followed by three single bite courses, one of which a tribute to the late charlie trotter. moving on to heavier dishes and my favorite portion of the meal, there was an excellent sweetbread course followed up by duck and then foie gras. the dessert portion of the meal felt a tad brief, but i absolutely loved the chocolate course as well as the pecorino/pecorino/pecorino dish.

42 grams in the real deal and is one of chicago's most exciting restaurants. while i love formal fine dining places like alinea, grace, and l2o, i really feel that personal restaurants like 42 grams, elizabeth, schwa, and el ideas are what make chicago such an incredible city for high end dining. if you enjoy the places i just mentioned, there is no way you will have less than an incredible meal at 42 grams.
crispy snacks - vidalia onion parchment, flax crisp and kale, fish-n-chip

juniper jump - hendricks gin, cucumber, lime, rosewater, hibiscus, orchid

soup - white sturgeon caviar, potato, chips, pea, milk, pollen

salad - beetroot macaroon, shallot, quail yolk, fromage blanc, lettuce and herbs

coconut - tom kha, finger lime, cilantro blossom

flavors of the sea - skuna bay salmon, trout roe, veta la plama phytoplankton, sea grape, dashi

santa barbara uni - yuzu, bluegrass aged soy, blis maple syrup, brioche, sea bean

sweetbread - crème fraiche, horseradish, pomegranate, oxalis, apple

taffy - tamarind, eucalyptus

duck - umeboshi, long bean, ash-baked eggplant, hearts of fire

hudson valley foie gras - comice pear, cipollini onion, daikon, mustard, blis elixir

tart - kalamansi, cherry sage blossom

sweet - dark chocolate, banana, blood orange, blis bourbon maple, pretzel, yogurt, bubble gum hyssop

salty - pecorino, pecorino, and more pecorino

caffeine - chicory, cardamom