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Midwesterner

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  1. I also initially read the second starter mentioned above as "pickled greens," but the menu actually reads "picked greens"---an odd choice of words for a simple item, but in any event what we are talking about is a fairly straitforward salad, with the beets and grapes served to the side on a teardrop shaped plate (presented horizontally). I didn't want any fans of pickled greens rushing to Quince only to be disappointed . My husband and I had a pre-theatre dinner there two nights ago (a Saturday). Our reservation was at 5:30 and we were the second table seated. By 7 o'clock the restaurant was completely full. Service was, as you'd expect, super attentive while there were only a few tables full of customers, but it declined markedly as the restaurant filled. We had trouble getting someone to take our credit card until we stood up and prepared to leave. But despite the sense that the staff was a little stressed by the full house, we enjoyed our evening very much. The atmosphere is calm and elegant, with lots of votive candles. The dress code did truly seem to be "anything goes," at least for men: I noticed at least two men in jeans, but no women wearing them. (One of the men in jeans was on crutches, FWIW). But you definitely could go without a jacket, even on Saturday night. I had the sweetbread starter described by several others above. It is indeed a generous portion, but I didn't find it as tender and flavorful as some. The mustard spaetzle seemed a little gummy to me. My entree, sea bass, was much better. It was a moderate sized filet, topped with a salad-like combination of hearts of palm, red onion and tomato, ringed by a delicious basil cream. I would compare the dish favorably to fish entrees I've had anywhere in Chicago. My husband started with the "picked greens," and then had shrimp tortellini in a spicy red sauce. There were both tortellini stuffed with a shrimp mixture and sauce-glazed whole shrimp in the dish--very pretty, though after tasting it I preferred my choice. For dessert my husband had the huckleberry shortcake, which was fairly petite as mentioned above, but I don't think that's such a bad thing in a dessert--most are too large. However, I didn't really like the cake used in the dish--it seemed to be a poppyseed cake, not a true shortcake. I had cheese to finish--3 choices for $8.00. I had the cashel blue, Pont l'Eveque and Humboldt Fog. The Pont l'Eveque was cold, which was disappointing, but the other cheeses were closer to room temperature. The portions were just right for one person. I enjoyed the whole experience very much, especially at that price point. You could easily pay as much at Davis St Fishmarket for much more basic fare.
  2. Just a digression, Ron--but do you really think of Miramar as a place for serious cuisine (as opposed to a fun evening with good but not great food)?
  3. I like Joy Yee's Noodle Shop on Davis (Pan Asian) and the Davis Street Fish Market a few doors down from that. Across from the Fish Market is a branch of a good local pizza chain, Giordano's (I like the stuffed pizza).
  4. Ronnie, This was our first visit. A friend was in town for a conference for just a couple of days and wanted to go to Alinea, so we had no choice but to go during anniversary week. I'm very glad the occasion "forced" itself upon us!
  5. At the end of our meal a few days ago, one of our servers asked us specifically which dishes had been our favorites. So the staff doesn't seem to mind a dish by dish critique.
  6. We had this in our anniversary "best of the best" meal two nights ago, and we asked the waiter how it was made. As best I remember, he said that the pear juice is frozen in a mold, unmolded and shaped a bit, then coated with a curry-butter emulsion that hardens around the cold orb. At room temperature the pear juice melts but the butter remains firm enough to form a shell. Note that this relatively fragile ball is served in a protective glass and you knock it back without ever touching it.
  7. Thanks for sharing your impressions. What was the table centerpiece? ← There wasn't one.
  8. A couple of other thoughts: the ginger table art present in the early descriptions of the restaurant was not there last night. Others have commented on the comfortable chairs. I sat for most of the evening on a banquette, provided with several plump cushions. I was encouraged to go ahead and sit on top of one of the cushions if I felt my seat was too low, but I was comfortable using the cushion to support my back--otherwise I would have felt too far from the table. When I changed seats because of the air conditioning issue described above, I got a chance to sit in one of the chairs: I actually preferred the banquette with the back support of the pillow.
  9. I went with a party of three to Alinea last night. We spent about 5 hours there and are very glad we went. I've read much of this thread but apologize if I am repeating anything that has already been covered or responded to. Our menu was "the best of the best"---the chef's favorites from the first year they've been open. My favorite dishes were the savory ones, especially those that featured "main course" type ingredients like kobe beef, squab, and bison (which I've never had before; it was excellent, very tender). I also liked the courses that used some kind of aromatic element to enhance the dish. I always thought that sounded silly when I read about it---that scented air should be considered an ingredient in a dish? But I have to say, it worked and made me feel pampered in an odd way. We had three courses with some kind of non-food aroma involved. One of them was a bite sized portion of lamb on a skewer that was completely hidden by a pile of baked eucalyptus leaves that released scent before you discovered what was on the end of the skewer. Another course was a seafood custard that included a piece of tubot and various shellfish, served in a small dish set into a shallow bowl full of hyacinth petals; as they served the plates, the waiters poured hot water over the hyacinth petals to create a "vapor." This dish is pictured upthread. My favorite of the scent-enhanced dishes began with a snow white pillow being placed in front of each diner. A very faint spicy smell was apparent. When the plate of food was placed on the pillow, the scent (which turned out to be lavender) was fully released. The food in question was a plate including a delicious piece of charred ham, baby snap beas (kind of like snap bea sprouts), and tofu that I would never have known was tofu--more creamy. It was really interesting discovering each new course. We did not have the wine pairings, fearing that would be just too much wine, but instead ordered one bottle of white and one of red for the three of us to share. That was actually more wine than would have been ideal for me--with all those couses to taste I wanted to stay alert! Many portions were petite. The very last course, called "Peanut with five other flavors," actually was just five peanuts, each one dipped in or accented by a different flavor: celery, grape, fudge, banana, and one I'm forgetting. This was served on a device built for the restaurant, a base with five removable thin skewers (they call them pins); you pull off a pin, pop the peanut in your mouth, and put the pin on a plate provided for the purpose. We also loved the very first course, which was a tiny bowl of cold potato soup fresh Positioned over the soup was a skewer/pin holding a small hot fingerling potato, a tiny cube of parmesan, a tinier cube of butter, and a slice of black truffle. We were instructed to pull the skewer out so the separate ingredients fell into the soup, then drink it all in one sip. It was ambrosia, possibly the best thing in the whole meal in terms of flavor (though I also loved the squab with watermelon, foie gras and licorice, as well as the bison with pistachio nuts). My least favorite elements of the meal were some of the sweet tastes--for example, vanilla pudding as one of the fillings in the 5 part heart of palm dish. We also had a dessert of "pliable" chocolate, and it seemed to me that whatever was done to make the chocolate moldable had diluted the taste, so that there wasn't enough contrast between the soft chocolate and the accompanying avocado mousse. I loved the sponge cake combination, with vanilla foam and bits of dried cherry. A rather amazing course was an orb of liquid pear that had been coated with a curried butter shell. This was served in a tiny glass with celery liquid. We were instructed to down it all at once and warned that the curry "ball" was bigger than it looked, so we should open our mouths extra wide, then close our lips quickly. All good advice! I do have a complaint. The air conditioner kept coming on throughout the evening and the vents blew directly on our table (we were seated next to the white curtain near the top of the stairs). When I mentioned this to our waiter, he offered to bring me a pashmina, which I accepted. It's nice that they have them available, but should the temperature in the restaurant be so iffy that they have to provide them? It's not like I was wearing a skimpy top; I had on a short sleeved sweater. Eventually I changed seats with my husband, since he didn't seem to be getting hit with the air to the same degree. After I moved, a waiter commented that he had noticed it was freezing near my seat. They didn't offer to move our wine glasses or anything else that would reflect they felt we'd been inconvenienced--seems like a service lapse to me. In other instances, the waitstaff was attentive. When our guest left one dessert dish unfinished because it had a strong root beer/sassafras taste she didn't care for, they insisted on bringing her an extra course with different flavors, even though she said she didn't want it. And she did like the new course: it was passion fruit mousse. The quick substitution reminded me of the adjustments the kitchen is prepared to make when diners have dietary restrictions or preferences. At a table for two near us, one person was having a vegetarian menu. A number of our courses included nuts, so I'm sure alternatives are readily available for those courses too. There was a very small child at the restaurant, sitting on her mother's lap. She didn't cause any problems, but I was surprised to see that this was allowed. What I will remember is the beautiful, interesting, delicious food.
  10. We are just back from Bruges, where we ate at Den Gouden Harynck (Michelin one star). It was excellent, very modern cuisine. It reminded me of the style of food served at Le Bernardin (we ate mostly seafood at Den Gouden Harynck, though there were other choices available) but with more aggressive flavors. Very light, bright food. We got into conversation with a couple at the next table who had been at De Karmeliet the night before. They much preferred Den Gouden Harynck, although I am not sure why. The man's comment was that none of the dishes "worked" at De Karmeliet.
  11. Ronnie, you will be glad to know we had an excellent dinner! I called at about 3 p.m. seeking a table for 6:30 and was told I could have one at 5 or 7:30. That surprised me a bit--I would have thought 7:00 was the prime reservation hour, not earlier. 7:30 was fine with us. When we got there the place was packed--all the bar tables full, and a few people with reservations waiting to be seated. We were offered our table within a few minutes (a square one in the main room fairly close to the front door). Previously we have been seated farther back in the restaurant or in a booth. The spot we were in last night was very noisy. The waiter had trouble understanding what we were ordering and repeated back "short ribs" after my son ordered "skirt steak." At least he repeated it so we could correct it. Not that it would have been a bad deal to eat the short ribs, but we'd been wanting to try some of the steaks. I also had steak--the filet--while my husband had the lamb sausages with goat cheese and grilled vegetables, a dish I'd loved on a previous visit. We liked all of our food very much. Backing up a moment, let me say that I was surprised to see how little the menu had changed since my last visit during the winter. Somehow I thought there would be more "seasonal" items. The desserts reflected that more than the rest of the menu, with special offerings of peaches w/vanilla ice cream and blueberries w/lemon sorbet. There was also a strawberry cream pie on the regular dessert menu (as opposed to say, the pumpkin pie featured last time we were there). I noticed that the shepherd's pie was not on the menu (but they did have the special of braised short ribs); also, there was a special of soft shell crabs served as a salad (I didn't see anyone ordering that; most of the plates going by seemed to hold steak, short ribs, or salmon). For our first courses we had the baked feta (am I remembering correctly that this used to come in a tomato puree? this time it just had a few tomato slices as garnish), the crab cake, which is served in a shallow pool of jicama accented gazpacho, and an unusual salad of fennel combined with three cheeses: gouda, chevre, and parmesan. We shared our plates (I was eating with my husband and 17 year old son) and it made for a nice starter tasting menu. The steaks were great--my filet was perfectly rare (by my standards)--quite pink but warm, and the ancho skirt steak was tender yet resilient--I think I may have preferred it a bit to my own choice of filet. The lamb sausages were still delicious. My husband and I shared a bottle of 2001Starwood Pinot Noir--a great choice. For dessert we had the seasonal specialties. For me the sorbet was a little too tart--a couple of bites was enough, and the serving was huge. The strawberry cream pie separated the berries and cream into separate entities--in others words, a white cream pie with glazed strawberries on top. Simple and pretty, though not terribly exciting. The best dessert turned out to be the peaches and vanilla ice cream. In earlier discussions of this restaurant we wondered if a lot of people would bring their younger children. Not on this particular Saturday night. Most of the groups seemed to be middleaged and older couples eating together, not family groups. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the demographic in Northbrook, but it did skew a bit older than I might have expected. I guess the younger crowd was at Miramar . We saw a few men wearing shorts, but for the most part there was a slightly dressed up ambiance--but few jackets. A couple of women in skimpy tops clutching their pashminas against the air conditioning, if that gives anyone a clue. One more thing: they don't seem to be on Opentable anymore. Also, we ordered the roast chicken to go for our daughter, who was working and couldn't join us, and the waiter/kitchen timed it to arrive hot just before we left (we told the waiter when we ordered it that we'd be having dessert). It travelled well, and she was thrilled.
  12. I thought the portions were fine, but as you can see in my review of Woolfy's I didn't finish the duck served there, so my appetite may not be a good guide! I find that if I am having a starter as well, and considering dessert, that I don't want a mega entree. But since the place isn't cheap, I can understand wanting a bigger portion.
  13. We're stopping in there tonight--I will report on the summer fare.
  14. I was in Stratford a few weeks ago and ate at Woolfy's (about 20 minutes outside of town, in St. Mary's) and Bijou. We also had a meal in Niagara on the Lake at the Hilldebrand Vineyard. All of the meals were good. The best food, I felt, was at Bijou, but I could understand that the wrong table might leave you smelling of "kitchen." We were in the far back of the restaurant at a window banquette. Service was informal (20 something girls--acting students?) but I really liked my hailbut with curry-spiced vegetables. The atmosphere at Woolfy's was very pleasant. We were there during a thunderstorm--moody! We heard the story of the break-in last Feb--very disturbing--a group of toughs, supposedly on drugs, came in looking for a safe and decided to trash the place, doing $80,000 worth of damage. All is orderly now. We had good food there, too. My husband had a Thai chicken curry that was full of cilantro and very fresh tasting. I liked my pate starter. Duck in a blackberry reduction was well prepared but a little ordinary. I didn't finish it (ok, I'm watching my weight, but at good restaurants I normally finish the entree). The food at Hilldebrand struck me as oversalted, but the setting was gorgeous--we were able to eat outside overlooking the vines. I had a mini tasting menu, each little serving accompanied by its own wine. Rather charming. If anyone is going up there, I highly recommend the production of Sondheim's "Into the Woods." It is a high concept re-imagination of the original--set in a Canadian ice storm!
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