Smyth, Chicago, 11/17/18

exterior
exterior

Smyth has a large open kitchen (with a wood fire), a small waiting area and 2 Michelin stars.  Upstairs from it is a ‘sister’ restaurant with a more casual mode.  Lighting is lower with plenty of candles in the room.  A variety of music plays in the background, including rap, on a real turntable.   The polished wood bare tabes were well spaced and set on a concrete floor with a wood ceiling overhead.  A couple of large wood columns are in the room, but they appeared to be structural.  It serves only a tasting menu which you designate the length of when you make your reservation.  Ours was the Omaha tasting.  Wine pairings were available, as are non-alcoholic pairings, but we ordered our own wines.  Service was excellent and friendly and pacing was good.  This meal started strong and never let up the quality – put it on your list if you’re in Chicago. Continue reading

Monteverde Restaurant, Chicago, 11/17/18

entrance
entrance

Monteverde is a large place on a corner so two sides have windows to the street.  Walls are decorated with pizza peels and mirrors and a really long bar adds seating.  High top tables sit opposite the bar, that is decorated with hanging pasta, TVs and windows into the rest of the kitchen.  On one end is the pastry chef and cabinets of their labors.  The main dining room is filled with closely set small bare wood tables, benches and chairs as well a good sized area of pasta and cookware items for sale.  The menu is all a la carte and many items are designed to be shared.  We ordered a lot of things to try and intended to share all.  Some were quite good but others were really lacking.  Pacing for all was extremely rapid and plates and flatware were not replaced between several of the courses.  Service tried hard and they did refund the price of 2 unacceptable items as well as bring a complimentary dessert.   This place was really bustling, so more is good than not but they also have some kinks to work on. Continue reading

Oriole, Chicago, 11/16/18

entrance
entrance

Oriole is located on an alley that the Uber driver didn’t want to go down because he was sure that a 2 star Michelin restaurant wouldn’t be ‘down that little alley’.  However it was and worth walking those extra 20 feet to the subtly lit door.  Once inside there is a small waiting area where we were served a warmed spiced drink.  They actually sent us home with the herbs and recipe to recreate at home if desired.  After we had chatted with the hostess and checked out coats she opened what looked like an old elevator door and we were led into the nice dining room.  There were only about ten 2-top and two 4-top tables, so I wouldn’t call it large, but the tables were well spread out and good sized.  The lighting was lowered and the exposed brick walls were lined with bench seating equipped with pillows.  From the wood ceiling with exposed ductwork,  a number of  light fixtures hung that came in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some glass bricked windows, jazzy music in the background, an open kitchen, lots of candles, some  interesting art work and wood columns completed the decorative elements.  There was a definite hum in the room but no noise problem.  They have been here for 3 years and offer one tasting menu that is full of wonderful flavors for all guests.  Wine pairings are offered (2 levels as well as non-alcoholic) but we chose to order our own wines.  Pacing was great and portion control perfect. Continue reading

Roister, Chicago, 11/16/18

entrance
entrance

Roister is a good sized place that opened in 2016 with a large bar surrounding the open kitchen that also has seating in addition to the dining room. It has been awarded one Michelin star.  It is a part of the Alinea group but the food is under the supervision of Chef Brochu.  We were there for lunch/brunch and I noticed the dinner menu offers some different  options.  The casual atmosphere had fairly loud background music and comfortable bar seating.  In the back was a pile of wood that is used in some cooking.  The lighting is subdued but spot lights provide plenty of light at each seat.  The staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, however the prep people that stood right in front of us seemed to have no interest in interaction with guests.  The menu had a number of interesting sounding dishes so we ordered a series of plates to split. Continue reading

Alinea, Chicago, 11/15/18

Entrance
entrance

Alinea opened in 2005 and is Chicago’s only 3 star Michelin restaurant.  This is a second visit for us, but we read about their big redo around 2015 and thought maybe things had changed, especially since Alinea means “the beginning of a new train of though.”  Grant Achatz is still the chef and he is no more personable than he was before, however most of the staff were very friendly and exceptionally attentive.  What I objected to before has just become even  more prominent.  If you’ve read many of my write ups, you know flavor is most important to my dining experience.  This place is all about the theater and show of your dinner.  You move around, lots of props are in play (music, smoke, ceiling art, etc.) and there is really a show of all the staff moving about servicing the tables.  Flavor is too far down on their list of priorities for me, but if you’ve never been to a place with so much show and innovative cuisine, it is worth one visit.  But be forewarned, you will leave with a lot less money and still hungry. Continue reading

Bellemore, Chicago,11/15/18

entrance
entrance

Bellemore is a large place on a corner, with two sides having windows looking outside and an open kitchen in the back corner.  The wide wood plank floor is matched with exposed duct work in the ceiling.  Rock music plays in the background and there is a large bar area as well as a number of different seating options.  Tables are fairly large and the place is well lit, but then we were there during daylight.  The striking design is highlighted with by two large birdcages with good sized birds.  Also the second room we saw had huge mural of owls.  Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos has been the Executive Chef since 2017 and wanted to create a dining experience that would resemble eating at a friends house.  I think I’d like to have a lot of these friends that would invite me over!  It is food full of flavor and texture.  At lunch there is a smaller menu with lots of plates meant to be shared.  All the staff were really friendly and provided efficient service.  The pacing of the meal was good and the staff were willing to bring out each dish as a separate course with clean plates and flatware. Continue reading