Eatin’ in Chicago 3

May 26, 2018 at 11:22 PM Leave a comment

Over the last twelve months, Jeff has visited Chicago four times. During each of those visits, he has tried to sample a wide variety of the great food being produced in the Windy City. As we may have said here before, we believe Chicago, not New York or San Francisco should be considered the food capital of the United States. Many, if not most of the trends that spread across the country begin in Chicago and while this is not necessarily a good thing, food prices in Chicago continually establish new highs that are not often met elsewhere. Securing reservations, or seats in hot Chicago restaurants is unquestionably the most challenging task (LA and NY buzz-worthy spots excepted). For all of these reasons, when work calls Jeff to Chicago, at least a part of him is happy…dinner time!

Parachute is a tiny little spot run by a husband with Ukrainian heritage and a wife whose family is Korean. The result of their food is what they call “Korean American.” For the rest of us with little regard for labels, the food is GOOD! Plates are interesting and flavors are varied. Consider trying the starchy, Bing Bread with addictive sour cream butter. Jeff also enjoyed the Pork Belly and Mung Bean Pancakes, Pork Loin and the dynamic Pavlova dessert that opens to revel yummy treats inside. Perhaps it is the Ukrainian influence, but Jeff has now changed his mind on Korean food.

Off the southern coast of China, very close to Hong Kong is the island of Macau. Like Hong Kong, it too was beholden for years to a European administration, this one Portugal. Shortly after the British exit of Hong Kong, the Portuguese left Macau, but what remained was a remarkable mash-up of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisine. The folks at Fat Rice have brought that food to Chicago and the restaurant name is based on their celebrated national dish, Arroz Gordo. There are a host of amazing things on the menu. Jeff invited a few friends to join him and because of that, experienced a wide variety of remarkable food. We all agreed the Shredded Lamb was our favorite, but would not have returned a dish! There is good reason why Fat Rice has just been awarded a regional James Beard award. It is that good.

On a blasé street, filled with nondescript storefronts, Entente has created an oasis, both architecturally and culinary. The “Wedge” was salad that needed a grander name because the salad was so good. A nest of greens was decorated with yellow cherry tomatoes, boutique bacon, Cambozola cheese (a soft Bleu) and the center was filled with a Green Goddess dressing! Beautiful to look at and great to eat. The Rabbit Cappelletti featured a ground rabbit interior with pecorino, fava beans and sweet pea pods in a citric broth. It was amazing. The Korean BBQ Short Ribs were not what was envisioned when ordered, but the result was special. Nicely spiced beef, turnips, greens and an unusual popcorn-like rice. Dessert was locally sourced honey made into a gelato and a mousse with caramelized white chocolate spikes. Entente is probably Jeff’s favorite place this trip.

Jeff hoped to visit another new place Roister, but upon arrival, found that the place was closed. This could have been easily avoided, but because the place must think it is chic, they do not have a phone! Under normal circumstances, Jeff would have called and asked about the availability of walk-in, bar seating. No phone, no call. Their website made no mention of the closed date and even invited walk-ins. Foolish Jeff. A decade ago, unlisted restaurant phone numbers and unmarked doors and address was cute, but today, extremely passé. We think it is time to avoid restaurants who pull these stunts.

Roister’s stupidity was Jeff’s good fortune. A few doors down the street was The Publican, Chef Paul Kahan’s more casual meat-centric dining room (and butcher shop, next door.) Kahan is our favorite Chicago Chef (Blackbird, Avec) but we have missed Publican since opening. The menu here is large, but the one thing to avoid missing is the Aged Ham. I guess it would be simple to call this American Prosciutto, or Jamon, but these may be as complex and as different as the Spain and Italy versions. The smoky variety Jeff enjoyed may not be there as they do rotate, but combined with the goat butter and bread, it was a real treat. Also good was the Avocado Salad with Jalapeño laced dressing. So was the Duck Confit. The Baba au Rum dessert was an interesting rum cake-custard mash-up. Not planned, but this Chicago restaurant stop was certainly memorable.

Located in the Logan Square neighborhood, Mi Tocaya Antojeria is a fun neighborhood spot with a pile of great foods. Over time, Guacamole has become somewhat predictable. Not here. Tocaya’s version featured a touch more heat via “Chili Ash” (which looked like roasted and powdered chili.) This addition was enough to liven the creamy avocado mash and make it Jeff’s favorite part of the meal. Almost as successful was the Campechano Taco, essentially a 3-meat blend of Cochinita (slow-roasted pork) Chorizo (spiced sausage) and Carne Asada (grilled beef.) While Jeff ordered one, he could have had a few and probably would Have preferred it to the less successful Pierna de Pato (duck leg, slow-roasted, carnitas-style.) The small misfire should not prevent a visit here, if only to join in the festival-like fun.

If Entente is not Jeff’s favorite newer place in Chicago, then Elske certainly is (he’s still arguing about that choice!) With Danish roots, the menu is a treat of unexpected delights. Jeff was blown away by the Maitake (sort of Hen in the Woods) Mushrooms that were flash-fried and served over a porridge of cooked Farro. Fava beans and shards of garlic greens added a splash of color and a zing of flavor. It was GREAT. Always a sucker for Sweetbreads, theirs were roasted with rhubarb and served with sunchokes, sliced raw strawberries and toasted yeast. Sunflower Seed Parfait! How can you avoid ordering that dessert? It was dynamite. Topped with sour honey, I couldn’t imagine a better ending, except every other one of the desserts offered, each a combination of ingredients and flavors that were at once unusual and intriguing. Next time, how about a five course meal of Elske desserts?! To compliment the foods, the dining room is an unencumbered and clean visual treat, perfect as an ending to a busy week in a busy city.

But first, NO visit to Chicago is complete without a visit to Portillo’s. Other cities have hamburgers, chili and BBQ. Chicago makes the best hot dogs (Jeff’s junk food of choice) and no one does them better than Portillo’s.

Whether you are spending a fortune on food or a couple bucks for a Jumbo Chili Cheese Dog, Chicago is the place that does both exceedingly well. If you travel there, you can be assured of one thing; you’ll eat well!

http://www.parachuterestaurant.com/ 3500 N Elston Avenue Chicago, IL 60618 773-654-1460

http://www.eatfatrice.com/ 2957 West Diversey Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 773-661-9170

https://www.ententechicago.com/ 3056 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60657 872-206-8553

http://www.thepublicanrestaurant.com/ 837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-9555

http://www.mitocaya.com/ 2500 W. Logan Boulevard Chicago, IL 60647 872-315-3947

https://elskerestaurant.com/ 1350 W Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-1314

https://www.portillos.com/index.html Multiple locations.

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