Forget fast-casual dining, Chicago's hottest restaurants are doubling down on the tasting-menu only model, with impressively delicious (and Michelin star-studded) results.
Smyth serves up unexpected desserts like salted-licorice cured egg yolk.
In this age of grab-and-go eats, there’s something to be said for a multi-course culinary journey that can captivate even the most restless of foodies. At several ambitious new Chicago restaurants, chefs are embracing the challenge of presenting diners with a dozen or more courses, throwing down the gauntlet to anyone who thinks of Chicago as merely steak joints and gastropubs. But tasting menus today are more passion than pretension: Show up in jeans, sit back, and let these maestros show you what they’ve got.
PERMANENT POP-UP Twenty-seat Temporis has all the intimacy of a pop-up minus the communal tables. Co-chefs Evan Fullerton and Sam Plotnick make an unlikely pair, but the veteran and creative upstart strike a refined balance with their food. “I’m rooted more in the tradition of technique because I had to go to culinary school,” Fullerton explains. Plotnick, on the other hand, began cooking in his college dorm room and has only worked at one restaurant, Les Nomades, where he met Fullerton. “I’m a little more scientific method-y,” Plotnick says. “I want to try a bunch of things I’ve never tried.” That includes an interactive microgreens centerpiece, and a foie gras ice cream and canelé combo accented with passion fruit reduction and sesame tuile. 933 N. Ashland Ave., 773-697-4961
EFFORTLESS EXCELLENCE White tablecloth elegance meets exposed brick wall urbanity on an inconspicuous West Loop side street at Oriole. With a menu that flows smoothly from sushi (one bite of nigiri topped with crisp roasted genmai) to pasta (luscious capellini dressed with Burgundy truffles), chef Noah Sandoval nonchalantly garnered two Michelin stars just seven months after opening. “The stars are a huge honor and confidence boost,” Sandoval says. “I must be doing something right.” Even indulgent courses like lamb belly and Japanese A5 wagyu show restraint so you don’t feel too guilty as you’re digging into the pie that pastry chef Genie Kwon sends you home with. 661 W. Walnut St., 312-877- 5339
FARM FRESH As you break into the carotene-packed licorice-cured egg yolk floating in frozen yogurt meringue in what has become Smyth’s signature dessert, thank pastry chef Karen Shields and a coop of chickens on a 20-acre farm in Bourbonnais. “Our ultimate goal is to let the farm dictate what we do,” says chef John Shields, who met his wife and partner working at Charlie Trotter’s. “It’s a really challenging proposition but there’s a uniqueness and creativity that evolves from having less.” Preserved wild black raspberries picked in July brighten up caramelized lobster, and salty shiitake mushroom powder garnishes both crispy lamb salad and a milk chocolate huckleberry bar. 177 N. Ada St. #101, 773-913-3773