Category Archives: Michelin Star

Sepia, West Loop, Chicago

Wanted to try a New American restaurant I haven’t been to yet, so my friend and I decided to get dinner at Sepia. Reservation was easy to make a few days ahead of time on OpenTable.

They have a diverse wine selection by the glass that sources from all over the world, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the Syrah the waitress recommended, and the Pinot Noir was a bit too earthy as I was thinking of getting some seafood. Not very drawn to the reds, I ended up getting a Cote du Provence Rosé just to not insult the waitress. It was fine, but I am not very discerning when it comes to Rosés.

For a starter, I got the foie gras royale, sour cherry gelée, hazelnuts, brioche. My friend got the sea scallops, grapefruit, parsley, red cooked pigs ears. I was hoping the foie gras would be seared raw pieces but it was a mousse. For me, the liver flavor was most prominent, more so than other foie preparations, but my friend tasted lots of nut flavors. The scallop was seared nicely with ideal texture (not rubbery), though the dish did not taste greater than the sum of its parts. The grapefruit enhanced a slight bitterness in the scallops which was a slight detraction for me.

For the entrée, I ordered the artic char, leeks, preserved cucumbers, pears, brown butter, pecans. Artic char is [basically] a lighter (both in color and flavor) version of salmon. It was cooked medium rare with perfectly crispy skin. No complaints about the fish preparations. The leek was oversalted in my opinion, and the dish had a lot of capers which furthered the sourness/saltiness of the dish. There were a few bites of the leek with cucumber that were quite nice. The pecans and little globes of pear didn’t really add anything to the fish and felt more like side add-ons. My friend got the berkshire pork chop, baby carrots, coffee, cabbage, smoked vanilla. I detected the coffee grounds both by smell and faintly by taste. I didn’t notice the vanilla at all, while my friend smelled vanilla but didn’t notice coffee. This dish was also oversalted (my friend agreed). There was a carrot puree that paired well with the pork chops, but the rest of the vegetables were mostly too salty. The pork chop was cooked medium and very tender.

Overall I was not impressed by the meal, and it is supporting my recent sentiment that 1 Michelin star means very little food-wise. The service was attentive, and the restaurant space is very cool: a Prohibition-era speakeasy feel. The volume was also not too loud and it was easy to carry a conversation. All the food was cooked very adeptly, but it felt more like a hodgepodge of local seasonal ingredients than cohesive, innovative dishes. Perhaps the chef just does not have the same tongue as me, but for the money I hoped for something more exciting.

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Longman & Eagle [3], Logan Square, Chicago

Arrived at 5:30pm on a Saturday just as they gave away the last walk-in table (should have parked faster). We waited at the OSB for around an hour for a table to open up.

At the OSB, got Pretzel with Welsh Rarebit, which is a mustard and cheese sauce; and Smelt and Chips. The pretzel was fluffy and the rarebit was cheesy with a mild mustard flavor. Smelt and chips was a play on fish and chips, with tempura smelt, fries, and tartare sauce. It was okay bar food but not super impressive.

Now on to dinner:

»Beef Tartare, Foie Gras Torchon, Medjool Dates, Klug Farms Peaches, Mustard Greens, Buttered Challah, Truffle Gribiche

Got this last time. It is still my favorite dish on their menu at the moment.

»Slagel Family Farms Bone Marrow, Bacon-Shallot Jam, Green Apple Kimchi, Pickled Garlic & Shallots, Parsley, Sourdough

I haven’t gotten bone marrow in years because while I really enjoyed it when I ate it, I also remembered how incredibly rich it was. Here they did not skimp, giving both halves of a huge bone with all its marrow. The bacon-shallot jam was incredible, and with a sprinkle of sea salt, really elevated the flavor of the marrow.

»Confit Beef Tripe, Puffed Rice, Five Spice Marshmallow, Broccoli, Pork Liver Mousse, Szechuan Sauce

I was wary because they seemed like a dressed up version of “beef and broccoli” but I was quite impressed. The confit tripe was very crispy, bringing a very unique texture to the offal. The puffed rice was also crunchy while still remaining airy. Each bite of tripe and rice brought a punch of flavors from the spice and sauces. Star anise was at the forefront for me, but I don’t think I can identify the other spices in 5-spice anyways.

»Braised Pork Cheek, Sour Cabbage, Sea Island Red Peas, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Green Apple, Chinese Mustard Caramel, Beer Foam

The pork cheek was not sliced thin as I expected. In fact it came in quite a solid chunk. The texture was also different from what I envisioned, closer to the solidity of heart, but not quite as tough, being easy to cut through. I don’t really like whole mustard seeds, so this dish didn’t really resonate with me.

»Slow Roasted Cauliflower, Beluga Lentils, Carmelized Onion, Golden Raisins, Mango, Cucumber Raita

I saw this vegetarian entree recommended on the Internet several times, so we decided to try it. It was good, but not too special. The cauliflower, lentils, curry flavor, and yogurt dressing tasted like a (good) traditional Indian dish.

»Terrine of pecan, bourbon, espresso. Honey comb. Ice cream.

I kind of ignored the fact that this dessert was a terrine and focused on the ingredients: pecan, bourbon, espresso. All my favorites things. The ice cream quenelle was served atop some dehydrated ice cream chunks. The rest of the ingredients came in the form of a layered terrine (a slice with a firm pudding consistency). The flavors were more subtle than I had hoped for. I enjoyed the crunch from the honey comb.

We originally wanted to get the jamon serrano wrapped pork tenderloin but it seems it was not available at the time and required a 1 hour wait.

Once again L&E gives good vibes and an enjoyable meal. Ordering is still a bit hit-or-miss. My track records seems to be 50% dishes that are hit out of the park and 50% average/middling dishes. But the highs outweigh the lows, so it’s still my favorite restaurant in Logan Square.

Paris Restaurant and Coffee Rankings

Restaurants

Here’s my rankings of the restaurants I ate in based on overall enjoyment considering food, service, price.

L’Arpege — Lunch surprise menu – by far the most memorable meal and the most fun I’ve had dining which is surprisingly since I usually don’t find tasting menus fun. If you have time for a 3 hour weekday lunch, highly recommended.

Le 6 Paul Bert — this is quintessential French cooking that’s really hard to find elsewhere. Get the chef’s menu (2 seafood, 1 meat, 1 dessert). It’s really “simple” cooking, but that’s because the cooks let the ingredients do all the talking.

Le Servan — exactly what I think a neo-bistro should be: cozy and cheery, charming Levha sisters, market driven ingredients with serious novelty. A la carte daily menu so you still have choices. The neo-bistro to go to.

Yam’Tcha — not as unique as I was expecting given it’s French-Chinese, but many of the best dishes I had in Paris were here. Tea pairing not worth it.

L’Avant Comptoir — This place is a must visit because it’s really unique to Paris. Really crowded, so much going on, overwhelming, absurdly good quality/price ratio. They also have the largest selection of natural wines I’ve encountered. Try to go when Eric is there; he has really good recommendations.

Les Chouettes — really well done classic French at reasonable prices. Feels like a high-class hotel but it’s actually not pretentious. My go-to for traditional French food.

Le Chateaubriand — it’s now too hyped and too expensive an experiment. Food was all cooked well but given the wealth of other neo-bistros now around, the food wasn’t novel enough to make it a must-visit. The only time I found wine super memorable — best Pinot Noir I’ve ever drunk.

Clamato — open Sunday, seafood tapas.

Chez Denise — If you want a really classic bistro from the old days, go here. Open 24 hrs on weekdays so good for late nights.

Juveniles — I thought Les Chouettes did classic French better. Try the menu of the day.

 

The quality of the wine is the most impressive thing about dining in Paris/France. And there’s definitely more “good food” in Paris than anywhere else, and most of it is in really casual environments which I think is hard to find elsewhere. But in terms of novelty and eye-openers, my opinion from the trip was that the neo-bistro scene is still catching up to places like New York or Copenhagen.


 

Coffee

This site is very good for Paris coffee information. I had a double espresso at each place (except L’Arbe). Here’s my rankings.

1. Loustic — good single origin espresso of the week (Belgian roaster Caffè Nation), not too sour like most. Has wifi and room in the back. The owner was training a cute barista during the morning off hours. He’s super obsessed with details, which I approve of.

1. KB CaféShop (formerly Kooka Boora) — my other favorite espresso (Five Elephant roaster), lots of crema. No wifi on weekends (probably for the better), might get crowded during prime tourist hours. It’s on a nice corner of Rue de Martyrs with an impressive little market on Sunday morning.

3. Ten Belles — Belleville Brulerie/Bodybuilder blend of Costa Rican beans. Good flavors, just a hint of sour. No wifi, small space but not cramped. Everything run by one woman when I was there.

3. Boot Café — a darker blend (Café Lomi’s Bordeaux blend), lots of crema. Similar to KB in taste. Very cramped, no wifi, run by single woman.

5. Holybelly — also Belleville/Bodybuilder, slightly sour but maybe that’s just the beans. Has wifi. Seems this place is known for brunch and has crazy lines if you go in peak hours.

6. L’Arbe à Café — 3€ for a single shot of single origin Ethiopia Yergacheffe so it’s quite expensive. The shot was prepared with care and did taste good. This place is more for selling beans so there’s no sitting room and inconvenient hours.

7. Espressamente Illy — I went here just to calibrate. Basically everything is machine programmed. Surprisingly it tastes pretty much like a traditional Italian espresso, but it’s the same price as all these other cafes so only come if in the area.

8. Fondation Café — another Belleville/Bodybuilder espresso, but quite sour for me. No wifi, only a little room inside, a few seats outside (people-watching?).

9. Coutume — double espresso came in a huge cup which I dislike, shot was sour in a “badly pulled shot” way rather than anything to do with beans. I didn’t like their Tokyo location either. Crowded but once you get a seat there’s wifi so you can hang around.

Telescope was closed for renovation but it looks like it’ll reopen soon.

No one can escape the “New Wave”… I am of the opinion that the new roasters/beans do produce better tasting espresso. But I read someone saying all the café owners follow the same tumblrs and it’s pretty true. All the new cafés have the same look and feel, and I like the classic French cafés with little tables out front better. The espresso was worse of course but that’s the trade-off.

Yam’Tcha, Paris, France

I called Yam’Tcha three weeks ago on a whim, not expecting to get a reservation because it is extremely difficult to book. The Saturday hours were also unclear from the Internet, so I was surprised when I managed to get a table for lunch on Saturday (opens at noon). I am particular interested in Yam’Tcha because it serves Franco-Chinois cuisine. These are my two favorite cuisines overall, so I was very interested to see how Chef Adeline Grattard combined them.

Arriving, I was seated comfortably on a “couch” of sorts: a bench that ran along the wall comfortably padded with cushions. The decor perfectly managed the elegant sophistication of a Michelin starred restaurant with the calming simplicity of a teahouse. I was informed that the 60€ lunch menu was not available on Saturday, so I had to get the 120€ full tasting menu (changes daily). I also elected to get the 40€ tea pairing because it’s highly recommended on the internet. The chef’s husband Chiwah is the tea expert.

Starter of light oolong from Taiwan

Sichuanese cucumber salad (tofu, sesame, Sichuan chili flakes) — Flavors were very Asian and familiar, a nice starter.

Sea bream tartare with citrus sauce Green tea from Jiangxi — The fish was fresh and texture was good, but something about the sauce wasn’t quite right for me.

Lobster soup, scallions Oolong from Taiwan — Very generous with lobster meat, kind of an upgrade of egg drop soup. I did not feel like the lobster was used to it’s full potential here.

Steamed turbot, squid, mussels, emulsion ‘fu yu’ (fermented bean curd), Chinese spinach Pu’er from Yunnan — The turbot was cooked nicely and the texture was good, but somehow the ‘fu yu’ or some unlisted ingredient didn’t pair well with the fish. However the ‘fu yu’ emulsion combined with the squid and mussels worked extremely well; that was the best bite of seafood I’ve had in Paris.

Scottish langoustine with coconut Marsala sauce, purple basil — Very reminiscent of Thai curry, it was tasty.

Fillet of veal with Shiitake mushrooms, cream of Shaoxing wine, black vinegar Oolong “rock” tea from Fujian — The sauce is apparently a favorite specialty of the chef, used in various dishes on the rotating menu. But I found it very familiar! The entire dish tasted quite similar to some pork dishes I make (e.g., Richard Olney’s pork chops with mustard cream and apples): the cream sauce traditionally calls for red wine but I usually use Shaoxing instead because I don’t have red wine on hand in the kitchen. This dish really gave me more confidence to go ahead with substitutions in the kitchen when I’m cooking French recipes. Experiment!

Bao (bun/brioche) with Stilton blue cheese filling and cherry Lighter Pu’er from Yunnan — The waiter asked if I wanted cheese before dessert and I was hesitating because I wasn’t sure if it was included in the menu (it is). But he said if I like cheese, this “cheese” is highly recommended. So I got the cheese, and a few minutes later, a bao is presented in front of me! When it was revealed that the inside of the bao contains cheese, I could not stop smiling. This is really what it means to combine French and Chinese cuisine! Before the meal had been “good food” but I wasn’t blown away, but this dish just elevated the entire meal to the ‘amazing’ category.

Two desserts side by side: Hazelnut ice cream over thin wafers sandwiching Physalis fruit / mirabelles with wine-flavored cubes Oolong from Guangzhou — The first dessert was the best I’ve had in Paris. The hazelnut paired very well with the Physalis, which I’m not sure I’ve eaten before but has an “Asian taste” to it. The tea was also my favorite, very fruity and with honey notes. The only tea in the pairing I wasn’t familiar with.

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Firstly, I do not think the tea pairing is worth it. It did not enhance the flavors of the food for me. I have also drunk all of the teas besides the last dessert tea in copious amounts at home, so the flavors were nothing new. I’d recommend it only if you haven’t tried a lot of Chinese teas before and want a guided tour of the most common types.

The food was very good. It is still primarily French in style (as it should be), using fresh French ingredients with a lean towards seafood. The Chinese influence was more clearly present in later dishes, but I would say there are clear Japanese and Thai components (e.g., the tartare and langoustine). The cooking was all done expertly and tasted great. However, aside from the bao, which I am in love with, the rest of the food did not bring the new dimension of taste that I was hoping to experience in a Franco-Chinois combination. The meal did give me the push to try to find these new combinations in my own kitchen.

It was a very pleasant meal in a uniquely designed restaurant. Before I decide whether it’s worth coming back though, I’m going to stuff my face with baos at boutique Yam’Tcha first.

L’Arpège, Paris, France

The first restaurant that I booked for this Paris trip and the only 3 Michelin star restaurant I considered a must visit, L’Arpège is No. 12 on the S. Pellegrino 2015 World’s Best Restaurants list. But my fanaticism towards L’Arpège started before I even knew the restaurant name. I was recommended Alain Passard’s cookbook The Art of Cooking with Vegetables as an introduction to Contemporary French cuisine. Steadily working my way through the book (which is ordered by the season), I am nearly halfway through. Cooking his recipes, I felt like I understood what Passard was trying to do a little better, and I couldn’t wait to taste the real deal.

I got the lunch tasting menu, which has no fixed items and allows the chef total freedom to use the ingredients of the day (shipped from his own farm). It is also the steal of the century. More on that later. I had very high hopes going into this meal, and let me spoil the ending: it was glorious.

Menu “Le Déjeuner des Jardiniers”

  • Amuse-bouche: vegetable tartelettes (quince, celery, apple)
  • Second amuse-bouche: puff pastry with swiss chard
  • House-made bread with butter — The freshest butter ever, the texture looks freshly churned. I found it a little salty at first, but as it softened I got used to it. Bread is given one slice at a time, but the waiters are quick to replenish when you’re finished.
  • Gaspacho (tomato) with celery & moutarde d’Orléans ice cream — The gaspacho is standard, but then the scoop of celery mustard ice cream has that spark of genius that just makes you smile.
  • Beetroot in gel of sweet wine and cacao — I ate this in one big bite. The mix of sweet wine with acidity and the cacao in the gel is again unusual yet delicious.
  • Multicolored vegetable ravioli with celery consommé — the celery juice was a little bitter for me, but the raviolis were great and showed the wide range you can achieve using vegetables as the star ingredients.
  • Red pepper soup with a spoonful of ham flavored cream — how crazy is ham flavored mascarpone?!
  • Beetroot sushi — a very colorful (red edge, yellow interior) slice of beetroot on sushi rice with fig oil. A signature dish, wonderful to look at, tasted delicious.
  • Onion gratin topped with quince — shredded onions are completely caramelized to achieve wonderful sweetness in this gratin.
  • Baby cabbage wrapped shrimp in Parmesan soup
  • Tomato pie with zucchini flower — the waiter said this was his favorite dish and I would have to agree. Tomato and zucchini flower on pastry. This is where having your own farm of super fresh ingredients really shines. The tomato is fresh with a fantastical seasoning of basil and other fresh herbs. I tried to decide if cheese would have improved this, but concluded that it is better without, allowing the freshness of the ingredients to come through.
  • Thinly sliced pear and mushrooms — very thinly sliced and layered, with a sprinkle of fleur de sel to bring out flavors.
  • Beetroot tartare with horseradish cream — signature dish, some fresh cilantro and dill as garnish. First time I’ve ever liked dill (freshness is super important).
  • Mashed potato with coulis of red wine — incredibly creamy mashed potatoes, the coulis was a little too acidic for me as I’m sensitive to wine, but the worked with the potatoes.
  • Squid with minestrone of vegetables — the tentacle was okay, but the squid rings together with seasoning, vegetables, and copious olive oil was very enjoyable.
  • Dover sole, celery purée, white wine sauce/foam, chives — finally getting dover sole that’s properly cooked and not breaded. The meat is firm yet tender, skin intact, thick fillet. But the standout was the purée which had a really nice flavor. I had to ask the waiter again what it was made of — it tastes nothing like celery.
  • Mignardise — a very generous assortment of little sweets. Confusing that it was served before the desserts.
  • Pastry with ice cream and (separate) cherry tomato stuffed with rhubarb (I think?) 
  • Vanilla ice cream puffs
  • Puff pastry with apple and raspberry filling
  • Crème caramel 

Everything about the meal was fun. The restaurant has a cheery environment, with friendly waiters. I was seated at 12pm when they open, and the restaurant was full by 12:30pm. The waiters move around fluidly, maintaining a consistent level of service deserving of 3 star status. It was amusing to see waiters in suits walk outside with raw eggplants and leeks in their hands. Alain Passard himself was constantly in the dining room like a jolly giant, chatting with local diners, and later bringing desserts out of the kitchen. My only disappointment is that I don’t know French — Passard was chatting with all the locals and exchanging a few words with some of the French speaking visitors (I don’t think he speaks English). I got a “Ça va mon ami” but I wish I could have chatted with him!

The meal lasted over 3 hours, with close to 20 dishes. The lunch menu is truly at the chef’s whim — I saw some people with the same menu get different dishes from me, probably whatever the kitchen was cooking at the moment. And the food! No dish disappointed, and each one had that little sparkle of genius that puts a smile on your face as you devour it. The desserts were fairly ordinary but maybe because by that time I was getting tired of eating. ME! The lunch menu is an absolute steal as it’s between 1/2 and 1/3 of the price of the fixed tasting menu, depending on which one you get. And I didn’t get any less courses than those with fixed tastings, just different ones that were more vegetable centric or less signature.

I go into many tasting menus with high expectations, and honestly this is the only one that has by far exceeded my expectations. I will be coming back for the lunch menu every time I’m in Paris from now on.

Mirazur, Menton, France

The main event of today was lunch at Mirazur, which is No. 11 on the San Pellegrino 2015 World’s Best Restaurants list. I took the regional train from Nice to Menton Garavan station (I was originally going to take the cheaper bus 100, but I realized in the morning that Mirazur is quite far (30 min walk) from the main bus/train station.

My reservation was for 12:15 but I arrived at the location before 11am to get breakfast and coffee. Since I was right at the France-Italy border, I wanted to try the fabled “coffee in Italy, breakfast in France” joke/myth. Surprisingly (thank EU) there is no passport control at the boundary. There is a large police station, but the cops just smile and say “Bonjour” as you pass. about 2 minutes after passing the border, there is a “bar” by the side of the highway. I ordered a cappuccino and a cafe (espresso). This made the owner slightly surprised, but I hadn’t had coffee yet that morning, and I am an addict. The cappuccino had a thick dense foam (no latte art here) with some cocoa powder sprinkled on top. The foam is the traditional Italian style, and it really did taste much better than the cafe cremes served in France. The espresso had a wider range of flavor but it was on the very dark side, and I must say it didn’t taste that much better than the ones in France. Perhaps I am too biased, but I do think “Third/New Wave” espresso in the US is the best. To complete the dream though, I walked back to France and bought a croissant. This was quite possibly my ultimate romantic dream of European slice of life. The view of Menton at the border is also one of the best in all the Cote d’Azur:

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Finally, it was time for lunch. I got the “First Tracks” (80€) menu rather than the larger 120€ menu since I just wanted a nice meal and not a full tasting menu.

Amuse-bouche Fried sardine and lemon confit, Macaron with black pudding filling and slice of Granny Smith apple, Beetroot jelly and goat cheese.

The small fried sardine was crunchy while the lemon was subtle and paired well without being overpowering as I often find lemon juice in fish recipes. The macaron shell was like those asian shrimp chips (very airy).

Oyster Cream of shallot, pear, tapioca, pear juice

A huge whole oyster that was beautiful to behold and eat. The pear was light and everything emphasized the freshness of the ingredients, which is what this restaurant is all about.

Sharing bread 

Recipe from the Chef’s grandmother. Served right out the oven with a local olive oil that was ginger infused. I didn’t like the ginger in the olive oil so much, but the bread was good.

Squid Bagna Cauda

Calamari sliced into thin linguini with a squid ink chip, artichoke, and artichoke puree. There was also a garlic butter sauce. The calamari was tougher, but this was intentional (also slightly charred) as the whole dish was like eating a pasta excellent with the seafood element inherent to the dish. Very creative.

Saint Pierre Pimprenelle, dark garlic puree

This was the dish that ruined the meal. Saint Pierre (or John Dory depending on who you ask) was presented skin side up. Beautiful looking but then I tried to cut the skin with my knife…and it was impervious! The flesh was also stuck to the skin, a sign of undercooked fish. I had to saw the flesh off to eat. The dark garlic puree and onion was good on the side. The dark garlic is garlic that has been fermented at the bottom of the sea (Japanese technique). The more I think about it, the more I think I should have called the waiter to send this dish back to the kitchen. This kind of basic technique flaw is unacceptable at a 2 star restaurant. I just did not have the brazenness to do so at the time. I wanted to complain afterwards, but the waiter simply asked “Did you enjoy the fish?” while already whisking away the plate and about to leave. All I could reply was “Thank you” begrudgingly.

Challans duck Plums and red shiso, vanilla

It was hard to recover from the previous course but I tried to be open minded. The duck is a thin slice, with some plum compote on the side, and a sauce made from the duck’s own juices. I am never a fan of duck dishes on tasting menus, as I find the thin slice does not give enough of the crispy skin that makes a magret de canard great. This was about as good as a duck pairing in such a small portion can get though. The last bite of compote had a nice presence of vanilla, which I had forgotten was announced as one of the ingredients.

Cheese plate This cost 19€ extra, but I could not resist the cheese cart (yes a cart of cheese is wheeled to your table) of a Michelin restaurant experience. I wasn’t sure how much I could select or how the pricing worked, so I only selected 4, one a specialty of Provence, another soft slightly strong one from Burgundy, a goat cheese, and Gorgonzola blue. The Gorgonzola was my favorite.

Indian fig vanilla cream

Fig flavored shredded ice over a vanilla cream.

Naranjo en Flor Saffron, almond foam, orange sorbet

Almond foam (dense) over orange sorbet with a thin saffron flavored wafer on top.

Tartlet coffee, parsnip, pistachio | Grapes


 

I was quite looking forward to this meal as the pinnacle of Cote d’Azur cuisine. There is a lot of hype on the internet and I haven’t seen any negative reviews. But I must say I was severely disappointed. The amuse and entree were creative while respecting the freshness of ingredients, but the mains and dessert did not impress. And that fucking fish.

The seafood I had in Copenhagen was much more impressive. Who would have thought that New Nordic Cuisine would prepare fish better than Mediterranean Cuisine?

Some people around me were having the longer full tasting menu, which looked like it had more creative dishes (and the fish was a different species). But I expect the chef to be able to show his vision even in a 6-course menu, or at the least not make rookie mistakes. The service was also very stiff, which might be the norm in France. Dress code was very casual: I saw some people wearing faded jeans, shorts, flip-flops (don’t do this, have some self respect).

The view was great, and going to Italy for coffee made my day. I guess if you come here get the full tasting menu to avoid mediocrity, but I really can’t say I think this place deserves either 2 Michelin stars or it’s World’s Best Restaurant ranking.

North Pond, Chicago IL

Summer Tasting Menu

Foie Gras, Raspberry Smoked Foie Gras Mousse, Raspberry Jam, Marcona Almonds, Oat Cookie Crumble, Nibs

I was instantly happy upon seeing the first course brought to the table. The mousse was spread generously with a visual delight of toppings sprinkled on top. The raspberries were very fresh (sour), and it was quite fun to scoop everything on top of the accompanying brioche to eat [the brioche at Boka was better though]. The cookie crumble provided a good textural contrast to the very light foie gras mousse.

Tuna, Melon Miso Albacore Tuna, Sake Watermelon, Sesame Slaw, Togarashi Spice, Lime Gel, Shiso

The tuna was seared for a crispy outer while the meat remained rare and tender inside. This is the perfect minimal preparation to let the ingredient itself shine. The sake watermelon was a yellow(!) cube. One of the accompanying sauces had the perfect savory flavor to pair with the tuna, making this a really great dish.

Surprise course Nectarine and tomato gaspacho

Highlighting the fresh ingredients of the season, the cool gaspacho carried the sweetness of the nectarines with a slight tartness from the tomatoes. I really like both ingredients and was even hoping to make my own gaspacho at some point this summer, so this was quite the treat.

Corn, Beans Cornbread Cavatelli, Sweet Corn, Green Beans, Honey-Black Olive Jam, Corn Nuts, Hibiscus

The weakest course of the dinner in my opinion – I could not really taste the cavatelli. The fried corn pieces were nice.

Guinea Hen, Basil Hen Breast Roulades, Striped Shrimp, Herb “Pudding”, Mushroom, Saturn Peach, Bacon, Tomato

A lot was going on here, but the hen breast roulade was the most memorable dish for me tonight. I find chicken breasts quite difficult to prepare truly well, with just the right tenderness. But this breast roulade (probably sous vide) set the standard for tender poultry. The filling added some necessary flavor to the white meat, and one particular bite of the center was extraordinarily juicy and awe-inspiring. I do wish there was less basil sauce though, as I felt that overpowered some of the other aspects of the plate.

Plum, Pistachio Purple Plums, Red Heart Jam Swiss Roll, Sangria Sorbet, Pistachio Meringue, Vanilla

The sangria sorbet really tasted like sangria.


As you can probably tell from my descriptions, I was quite quite happy with my meal at North Pond. The restaurant is located in the middle of Lincoln Park (the actual park) facing North Pond (the actual pond). While we did not arrive early enough to get a seat in the outer room facing the pond (it’s first come, first serve) we admired the view and took some photos before dinner. The atmosphere is really welcoming and casual, and from the moment the first plate was put down, each course just brought a new burst of happiness. The ingredients were fresh and I could taste the playfulness of the recipes, which shone with creativity while not compromising taste and respecting the natural qualities of the ingredients themselves. Plus, the tasting menu is quite “good value” so I definitely recommend coming here whenever possible to taste the season!