Lunch is often the best value for Restaurant Week and Chef’s Week – three courses for $22 – and NoMI’s lunch is no exception. Unfortunately, NoMI’s Chef’s Week offerings seem more half-hearted than my Restaurant Week experience. Also, service is distant, splashing water on my table without ever noticing, and dessert seems like an afterthought.
For my first course, I chose the asparagus bisque, which is a bright, springy green and poured table-side. The soup is thick and velvety but still light. The grapes halves are sweet and juicy, the honeydew is sweet and tender, and there’s a tart sweetness from the rhubarb – while the soup itself is not sweet, the sweetness of the garnishes makes it more appropriate for the first course of a brunch than an actual lunch. The tangy, creamy goat cheese and crisp yet delicate asparagus tips help make it a bit more savory.
I chose the walleye as my main course. The walleye has good color, but the skin isn’t crispy, which is disappointing. The mild fish itself is meaty and cooked nicely. The emulsion is really nice and gives the dish some needed acidity, as does the precisely cut pickled shallot. Something in the caponata, possibly marcona almonds, gives it crunch. The caramelization gives it sweetness, and the bits of Parmigiana crisps give it salty umami. The greens as garnish are a bit ungainly, and I’m not certain what they were because the server only passed by briefly.
Because I was underwhelmed by the plated dessert at Restaurant Week, and cookies and candies I’d viewed at a different table then looked lovely, I decided to go with the cookies and candies for Chef’s Week. Unfortunately, they turned out to basically be a selection of mediocre mignardises masquerading as an actual dessert. The biscotti is crisp and crumbly with a hint of orange, not especially sweet, and fairly standard. The ping pong ball-sized bit of chocolate cake is boring. The mini macaron is well formed, but the taste is forgettable. The madeleine is buttery, slightly tender, and crisp. The pate de fruit is tender and slightly tart and possibly my favorite of the bunch.
The presentation was clearly better during Restaurant Week, which offered bread service and a composed dessert, as opposed to jumbled into a bowl. As with the previous lunch, the meal is off to a promising start with the soup, the fish is nice, and the dessert is disappointing. Still it’s an excellent meal for $22; I just wouldn’t return for it at the regular prices (based on the prices on the website’s menus, $44).
NoMI Kitchen – 800 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Theatres Nearby: Lookingglass Theatre is just across Michigan Avenue. NoMI is two blocks away from the Chicago Red Line station, so it’s just a few stops away from the Steppenwolf Theatre to the north and to the south, the Goodman Theatre, the Oriental Theatre, the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and the Bank of America Theatre. The 66 bus will also take you from NoMI directly to Navy Pier for the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in about fifteen minutes.