Tag Archives: foie gras

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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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.