This year, my approach with Restaurant Week was to mostly visit restaurants I know and enjoy, along with one restaurant I’ve been wanting to visit for ages (NoMi) and two new restaurants. This Randolph Street restaurant is one of the latter. The service seemed pleasant, albeit a little absent-minded and a bit slow, and the courses were attractively plated, but the food didn’t live up to my expectations.
Given its Pilsen location, I’ve only made my way down to Nightwood* a few times. However, Nightwood’s executive chef and owner Jason Hammel is also the owner of Lula Cafe in Logan Square, which I like, so I’ve given it a few chances. Nightwood is a nice restaurant, but given how out of the way it is for me, and how many good restaurants there are much closer to where I work and live, I am not likely to be back very frequently.
Michelin-starred Sepia has a standing spot on my Restaurant Week list. Sepia’s Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman has, among his numerous distinctions, a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Best Chef: Great Lakes and a win over Iron Chef Marc Forgione on Iron Chef America, so I jumped at the chance to visit during Restaurant Week last year. Then, as now, I enjoyed a pleasant meal in a polished surrounding, although I find myself not as impressed as I’d like to be.
Located at the Park Hyatt in Gold Coast, NoMI has a great view of the Chicago Water Tower and Michigan Avenue. Their lunch is one of the better deals of Restaurant Week (three courses for only $22, which is the typical price of their lunch entrees), and even better, they offer lunch during the weekend.
I first went to Bistronomic a few years ago, before going to an American Chamber Opera performance, so I took note when I saw Phil Vettel’s review of their Restaurant Week offerings. Because the James Beard Awards are being hosted in Chicago for the first time this year, Bistronomic has taken their inspiration for their Restaurant Week menu from The Essential James Beard Cookbook. I visited for their three-course lunch, offered for $22. Continue reading
I experienced The Lobby at the Peninsula for the first time last year during Restaurant Week. They turned my head with the special touches – the incredible porcini soup amuse bouche, the bread service, the mignardises, the individual pound cake with the check – and the elegant surroundings. Since that first visit, I’ve returned maybe half a dozen times, unfortunately with somewhat mixed results.
After Chef Lee Wolen left, The Lobby made radical changes to the menu, largely simplifying to something closer to a more standard hotel restaurant than a fine dining destination. Judging by this year’s Restaurant Week offerings, they have also eliminated much of what I loved about the restaurant – no amuse, no mignardises, no individual pound cake as a little goodbye. Those are small touches, I know, but they really added to the luxurious, pampering atmosphere (and they were delicious, frankly more memorable than some of the proper dishes). That said, the Restaurant Week menu is also offered at a lower price point this year ($33 for three courses, instead of the $44 last year). Continue reading
As someone who doesn’t have the budget to indulge my love of fine dining as frequently as I’d like, Restaurant Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I tried to be particularly discerning about the restaurants I chose, but I couldn’t resist making reservations for Boka twice so that I could try two sets of menus. Since the redesign with Chef Lee Wolen becoming Executive Chef/Partner last year, Michelin-starred Boka has become one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. Their offering may be the best deal of Restaurant Week this year: four carefully composed, beautifully plated courses (cold, hot, entrée, and dessert) for $44. Continue reading