Tag Archives: 1 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.

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.

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.

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!

Boka, Chicago IL

Summer Tasting Menu

»Abalone • fermented turnips, smoked trout roe

The amuse-bouche of abalone was a good start: the meat was chewy but not too rubbery and the roe provided a splash of flavor.

»Madai Snapper • green coriander, black garlic, dashi, pickled mushrooms

Probably my favorite dish of the night, the snapper was done like a ceviche with a nice dashi pairing, reminding me of a cold summer udon in Japan.

»Tomato • watermelon, sunflower seed, lemon balm

The small heirloom tomato had a gradient of black skin, which is a rare find. The watermelon was compressed (during growth?) so each cube was packed with sweetness.

»Foie Gras • Custard plum, almonds, brioche

The most creative and surprising dish was the foie gras creme brûlée; though the star of that dish was actually the house made brioche which was wonderfully fluffy. I ended up eating the crispy top layer of the creme brûlée separately and then smearing most of the pate onto the brioche after. I am not sure how well the sweet toppings worked together with the strong liver taste.

»Cavatelli • corn, chanterlles, tarragon

The house made cavatelli was very chewy, which is a sign of good handmade pasta. I guess I just wish there was more of it.

»Skate • cucumber, beets horseradish

The skate was slightly breaded/floured, and I am not a big fan of this type of preparation for fish. The meat did has a texture very similar to crab meat, which was intriguing since we missed the waiter’s announcement of the ingredients the first time it was presented.

»Roasted Pork Loin & Belly • burnt eggplant, tomato, onions

The pork loin was tender and a little pink in the middle. I will hazard a guess that it was prepared sous vide. However it was still a very lean cut of meat so the texture was still not as tender as I desired. The belly was very good, with everything melting in your mouth upon consumption. One of the accompanying gels had a licorice-like taste that I took offense to, however.

»Olive Oil Cake • raspberry, blueberry meringue, violet

»Huckleberry • crème fraiche sorbet, coffee cake, speculoos cookie

The crème fraiche sorbet was delicious, but the coffee cake was a bit too sweet.


 

Our meal at Boka was pleasant, with a well-paced tasting menu (no long waits between courses), and a very accommodating waitstaff (they printed out a menu on the spot when I asked for one at the end of the meal). The tasting menu is not preset, so it’s just what the chef thinks goes with the season. Overall, I felt the meal itself was well-prepared good food, but nothing really elicited surprise, astonishment, or pure joy taste-wise. When eating tasting menus, I really look for eye-opening, novel experiences in food, and that wasn’t quite there today. There were also some dishes on the a la carte menu (salt cod ravioli, Peking duck breast, chicken) that I had my eye on, I was a bit disappointed that these were not on the tasting menu. The tasting menu was enjoyable and well-executed, but I did not find it very memorable. So in my opinion, I would recommend going with the a la carte menu at Boka.

Longman & Eagle [2], Logan Square, Chicago

First time coming here for dinner; last time I was here for brunch so I didn’t get the full experience. They don’t take reservations, so on the weekends this place is known for long waits. Showing up at 6pm on a Tuesday, we were immediately seated.

I shared some small plates:

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

This was the dish that made me happiest tonight. I couldn’t really taste the foie gras since there was so much going on, but scooping everything onto the Challah toast, the tartare, sauces, and pickle together reminded me of the taste of an Au Cheval burger (or a Big Mac if you go further back to childhood) but without the dry/hard texture of the patty. I got out of my Au Cheval burger phase since I found the texture of the thin patties less than ideal, but this tartare is the solution. No resistance, all the flavor. I guess secretly I just want to eat better versions of Big Macs everyday.

»Marinated Octopus & Boudin Noir Salad, Ricotta Salata, Boquerones, Fingerling Potato Chips, Arugula, Green Olive Caramel

The octopus was slightly rubbery, and the grilling didn’t leave the crispy texture on the outside that I was hoping for. A lot going on in the plate. Boudin noir (blood sausage) tasted as I hoped (aka like blood but with sausage consistency), which was the main reason I got the dish in the first place.

»Duck-In-A-Jar, Duck Pastrami, Duck Donfit, Duck Heart, Rice Beans, Potatoes, Klug Farms Raspberries, Duck Blood-Foie Gras Jus

This “plate” gets the most points for creativity. Served in a mason jar (lid on) on a specially made plate. Spooning up the juices, meat, and beans on the bottom of the jar, the taste was quite flavorful, reminding me of a nice duck broth. The jar made it slightly hard to eat though, and I didn’t find the rest of the ingredients and flavors that special. I was also slightly distracted by…

»Pretzel Crusted Veal Brain Schnitzel, Spatzle, Smoked Blueberries, Pickled Mustard Seed, Capers, Brown Butter, Lemon

I’m always open to new experiences, and I’ll try almost everything so I had to get this when I saw it on the menu. Nobody else wanted to even try any, so I ate the whole dish myself. The schnitzel was still shaped slightly like a brain, and the fried outer shell did not detract from the texture of the brain inside. This texture is truly unique: almost like heavy whipped cream but not as airy, similar to crab roe but not as gooey. It’s very rich, and the blueberries, mustard seeds, and some kind of jam/gel, were not enough to offset this. It was kind of like eating blueberries and cream/yogurt. Due to the richness, I wouldn’t recommend getting this unless it was to share, but I’m glad I got to try some brains.

Overall, Longman & Eagle is really not afraid to experiment. As a result, there will be hits and misses, but the experience is quite enjoyable and creative. It’s a “neighborhood” restaurant and the most unpretentious Michelin starred restaurant I’ve been to. Since it’s in Logan Square I won’t be making trips specifically to dine here, but it’s a great place to grab brunch/dinner when you’re in the area and the line isn’t out the door.

Goosefoot, Chicago IL

aromatics box/butternut squash soup

aromatics box/butternut squash soup

scallop/maitake/lobster/lemongrass

scallop/maitake/lobster/lemongrass

begonia/preserved garlic/shrimp/pea sprout

begonia/preserved garlic/shrimp/pea sprout

chestnup soup/alba mushroom/potato/truffle essence

chestnup soup/alba mushroom/potato/truffle essence

tasmanian king salmon/ice plant/soy/cucumber

tasmanian king salmon/ice plant/soy/cucumber

duck breast/cardamom/cacao/algre-doux

duck breast/cardamom/cacao/algre-doux

angus beef/pine/szechuan peppercorn/tokyo turnip

angus beef/pine/szechuan peppercorn/tokyo turnip

roquefort/quince/goji berry/hazelnut/mulled wine

roquefort/quince/goji berry/hazelnut/mulled wine

beet juice palate cleanser

beet juice palate cleanser

red pear/juniper/balsamic/cassia bud

red pear/juniper/balsamic/cassia bud

chocolate/sea salt/lychee/fig

chocolate/sea salt/lychee/fig

ending chocolates (log not edible)

ending chocolates (log not edible)

Very deserving of its 1 Michelin Star, Goosefoot presents a wonderful tasting menu at a fantastic value. It’s also BYOB, which leads to a really comfortable, enjoyable meal with friends. We ended up staying for more than 5 hours, and had a nice chat with the chef’s wife who is also one of the receptionists.

Most memorable: perfectly seared scallop, chestnut soup – really filling and the aromatics from the truffle essence were unbelievable, roquefort macaron – I love macarons and the more savory roquefort filling was very unique

Nitpicks: I found the ginger in the broth pairing with the salmon a bit overpowering. I was a bit disappointed by the duck (not enough crispy skin and I like the meat a bit more rare) although the cacao was an interesting touch.