Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Claudia Pop-Up

 
I like to keep track of underground dining in Chicago even if there are a few that I will probably never go to (for whatever reason).  I had first heard about Claudia, an underground pop-up run by Chef Trevor Teich and open only on weekends and doing a fine dining menu, a couple of years ago and while I was very interested, I couldn't bring things together for a night out there.  When I heard that they would be closing and that former Moto Chef Richie Farina would be a guest chef for their last dinners, I said that I had to make this happen.  As it was, I made it to Claudia's last dinner.  I have a special spot in my heart for Moto.  It was the first fine dining restaurant that I went to and they were full on into Molecular Gastronomy, a combination of science and art.  Richie was one of the chefs when I first went, but had risen to Executive Chef by the second time I came.  After he left, he has kind of flown under the radar, so I was interested to see what he would do.  Claudia was located on the second floor of a building in the West Loop, an area that used to be the warehouse district for the local food companies.  The building looked like it had formerly been a warehouse, but had been converted to offices.  Our dining area was small and stark and had two 8 seat picnic tables.  There was a table for the drinks that people brought and two doors, to the room.  The first door was the entrance, but the second led out into a large ballroom area that separated the dining room from the large industrial kitchen.  The diners could wait in the ballroom and socialize with each other and the chefs until dinner was ready to be served.  When dinner was announced, we were told that we could sit wherever we wanted at either picnic table.  I was by myself, so I sat at a corner to give other diners who were dining with other people the ability to dine together.  I sat across from a brother and sister who were both involved in the tech industry and a young man, his female friend, and aunt.  The people that I was around were very interested in technology and science, so the conversations were very interesting.
When we were seated, our first course came out and it looked for all the world like Chicharrones served on a paper towel.  While similar, the "chicharrones" were actually Flash-Fried Beef Tendons.  The texture was similar, very light and crunchy, but the flavor was a little more savory.  The paper towel was also an illusion.  While it looked like a paper towel, it was actually a ceramic plate.  It was very cool and set a great stage for a night of experimentation.
While the Beef Tendons were good, they weren't an official course and were more an Amuse Bouche.  Our first course was about lamb.  It started with Lamb Loin Tartare and accompanied it with Lamb Fat Aioli, Red Carrots, Onion Strings, and as with most tartares, a raw egg.  I like Steak Tartare, this had a more funky and gamy flavor than does beef as might be expected from a dish using a lot of lamb. 
The next course was apparently a classic of Chef Trevor's and was frequently on the menu.  Called Snails in the Woods, it was very much a visual experience.  The plate with the dish was presented first and then water was poured into a vase on the table.  The vase apparently had dry ice because when the water was poured into it, steam poured out to set the atmosphere for the dish.  The dish itself consisted of Tempura Fried Snails, Black Truffle "Dirt", and Herbs.  With the steam (fog), the leafy herbs, and the dirt, the illusion was complete.  The snails were very good.  The tempura crust provided a light crunch to the regular chewy texture of snails.  The herbs and dirt added some nice flavor to the snails.  The dirt tasted of truffles (of course), but it didn't have the overwhelming flavor of some truffle flavored dishes.
Our next course was called Coconut Squid and seemed to be an unusual combination, especially that was what the course almost completely consisted of.  It was a multi-layer course starting on the bottom with Coconut Custard, topped with Squid Ink Marinated Squid.  On top of this was Deep Fried Young Coconut.  This was all seasoned with Togarashi and Nuac Mon Kombu (a Fish Sauce Braised Seaweed).  The dish was a mixture of flavors and textures from soft and chewy to crunchy.  The squid ink marinade did little to the squid other than turn it black.  While all of the individual components were good on their own, if you could get a bite with everything, it was the best, with a wealth of flavors and textures.  I have to think that this was one of Richie's dishes, because I noticed that there is something similar in the Moto Cookbook.
The next course was very pretty and delectable as first presented even in its simplicity.  It started with a couple of Butter Poached Scallops with Cuttlefish, Fennel, and Confited Orange.  To this was added a Red Wine and Scallop Consomme.  The scallops were incredibly tender and flavorful.  The cuttlefish added some texture, the fennel - some flavor, and the confited orange concentrated the orange flavor.  The consomme, was very light, but added flavor to the dish and was all pretty good.
The next course is a classic flavor combination, but the dish was very much an expression of art and science.  It was Beef and Cabbage which you would expect to be simply brown and green which were there, but there were a variety of shades of red and green striped on the plate (from cabbage juice at different pH levels).  The dish consisted of an incredibly tender Red Wine Braised Short Rib and Bacon Braised Cabbage, with the previously mentioned Cabbage Juice, Leek Ash, and Sarsparilla Beef Glaze.  It was rich, tender, savory, and almost as much fun to look at as it was to eat. 
Our last savory course that reminded me somewhat of a Deconstructed Cubano Sandwich.  It was made with a Quick Cured Pork Belly, Pork Loin, Corn Bread, Rye, Carrots, and Mustard.  I will grant that a Cubano has two types of pork, Swiss cheese, Mustard, and Pickles, on Grilled Bread, and this dish replaced cheese with carrots, but the flavors still really reminded me of a Cubano.  It was simple, very flavorful, and very good.
I said that the Pork Belly was our last savory course.  That was sort of true.  Our next course was dessert which was sweet as a dessert should be, but it was also very savory.  It was a Rice Cake with Kombu (seaweed) and Amazake (fermented rice) Ice Cream.  If any dish could be considered a fail, this would be one.  It was mostly ice cream in a flavor I didn't care for.  The rice cake and kombu did provide (savory) flavor, but it added to something that I didn't really care for in the first place.
The first dessert was essentially a palate cleanser, the second dessert was actually fun to eat.  While the menu labeled it Chocolate, it could have just as easily been called Coffee.  It started with Chocolate Gelato, continued with Coffee Espuma (culinary foam, this was thick enough almost to be called a mousse), and Caramel.  It was really good and actually kind of reminded me of a Caramel Macchiato turned into a dessert.
 
Our final dessert was a course in two parts and I have to think that each chef made one part.  Called Embers & Ash, We were first presented with Embers:  Flaxseed Caramels, on individual spoons for each diner, and presented on a burning log.  It was supposed to evoke the image of eating sweets around a campfire.  After Embers come Ash and that is what the course very much looked like, ash.  We were presented a plate of powders consisting of Smoked Creme Anglaise, Dark Chocolate Powder, and Brown Butter.  Before we were allowed to dig in though, Chef Richie came around and dug chunks of Liquid Nitrogen Frozen Chocolate Cake which "smoked" and was meant to look like smoking coal.  When we ate these pieces, because they had been so cold, we would blow a lot of steam out of our noses and mouths.  It was very cool, a lot of fun, tasted good, and was a great ending to a fine dinner.
When dinner was finished, the chefs were in the ballroom to talk, sign menus, and take pictures.  I did all three.  I really enjoyed my dinner, I just I wish I had gone sooner.    
   

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Orange on Roscoe - Brunch

 
It has been a long time since I last was at Orange on Roscoe, but I had really liked it so I decided to schedule it for one of my monthly brunches.  Orange has been around for a long time and while there are a couple of Orange Restaurants in the city and there used to be a couple more, I think Orange on Roscoe is the oldest.  It is a small neighborhood brunch place that unsurprisingly focuses on oranges (They have orange coffee) as well as other brunch stuff.  The space is fairly large for a neighborhood restaurant, but it still draws a good crowd on the weekend.  The fact that it doesn't take reservations means that if you want to bring a larger group means that you have to plan to have someone there a little early in order to get your name on the list.  The space is nice with local artists art on the wall, a hardwood floor, tin ceiling, a small bar at the front of the room with an automatic juicer behind it, small booths on the same wall as the bar and tables throughout the rest of the room.  Surprisingly, I was seated pretty quickly before my friends arrived, but because of a misunderstanding, I ended up getting moved when the rest of my party arrived.  It was okay, though because the table was still good and the food was still the same.  I mentioned the Orange Coffee.  It was a given that I would have some when I came as it is something that they are known for and I like good coffee.  I am not sure how it's done, but the coffee definitely has the flavor of oranges without the sweetness.  I drink my coffee black, but I have to imagine with cream, the flavor approaches that of a creamsicle.
Another specialty of the house is their Frushi or Fruit Sushi.  I like fruit and sushi both, so of course I was going to order it.  One order came with one "Maki" Roll and one "Nigiri".  I wanted to share so I ordered two.  The plate presented had the Nigiri with Strawberry and Blueberries on Sushi Rice, the Maki was Lemon and Pineapple in the rice, as well as stripes of Strawberry Jam and slices of Kiwi, Orange, and Grape.  It was good, fresh, and a lot of fun to eat.
There is a rotating Pancake Flight that changes every month.  Also a specialty, it is very popular, and most of our table ordered one.  The Pancake Flight consists of  4 sets of three specialty pancakes with flavors that rotate monthly.  The flavors that were offered this month were the Tea Pancakes, served with Lemon Filling, Whipped Cream, and Honey, Coffee Pancakes with Coffee Cream Reduction, Whipped Cream, and Powdered Cocoa, Hot Cocoa Pancakes with Chocolate Pancakes, with Marshmallow Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Ganache, and the Vitamin C Boost Pancakes with Lemon butter, Fresh Strawberry Slices, and Orange Segments.  All were sweet, flavorful, and very creative, doing a good job referencing the drinks for which they were named.  While they were all good, I think that I liked the Coffee Pancakes best.

I really enjoy Orange and even with the other great restaurants that have opened, has continued doing their thing.  I wish them many more successful years and hope to get back sooner than was the last time I came.  
     

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Naha

 
This post is a requiem of sorts as the restaurant is closed (for now) and you will no longer be able to go to this incarnation.  The restaurant will be moving from the location that it has occupied for the last 18 years, a place that has had two restaurants in the last 40 years, and while the chef and manager, who are cousins, will remain, the question remains as to whether they will repeat their concept in a new space.  I first went to Naha years ago and loved it.  The chef, Carrie Nahabedian, is a celebrity in the Chicago area for promoting cooking that is fresh, seasonal, and local.  She is on the board of directors of Chicago Green City Market, Chicago's only organic farmer's market, and the food that she serves in her restaurant is market fresh (While Naha is closed she and her cousin, Michael Nahabedian, who is the manager, also own and run French Restaurant, Brindille).  She is also a member of Chicago Chef's Hall of Fame (2009 Inductee).  The restaurant space itself is simple and open with a light green color scheme.  The dining room is divided from the entrance hall by a wall running back into the space.  The bar sits at the space at the back of the restaurant where the entry hall opens into the dining room and the kitchen (closed) is behind that.  The dining room is very open with a long banquette running along the wall that divides the entrance from the dining room, a short banquette with a half-wall divides the room to walking, but despite the division, the space from the window at the front to the bar in the back all feels like one room.  I was seated at the banquette at the front of the room which was nice because I could see the entire dining room.  It is one of the few dining rooms that I have seen that is carpeted.  When I was there (early), the room was also fairly quiet so I could here the chef giving instructions in the kitchen to the staff for a party coming later in the evening.  I could later hear and understand conversations that I overheard from fellow diners in the dining room.  If the restaurant were to have remained here, I would have wanted to keep this in mind if I had ever returned with someone.  As I was there by myself, there was no reason not to start.  Naha has a pretty extensive wine list and a curated beer and cocktail list.  I started things with a classic cocktail that is essentially a Scotch Buck (Mule).  Called Penicillin, it contained Te Bheag Scotch, Ginger Syrup, Ginger Beer, and Lemon to finish things off.  Bucks or Mules are very popular because they combine sweet and spicy with a little tart at the finish.  With the Scotch, it adds a little peatiness, though not a lot of smoke.  It was very smooth and very good as anything coming from these guys, I would expect, would be.
I ordered my appetizer and entree after my drink arrived and was presented with a bead plate with some housemade butter.  The bread was dense and flavorful and the butter was smooth and sweet.  We were served, French, Sourdough, and Raisin Breads and though the textures were all similar, the flavors were different.  While they were all good, of the three, I think that I preferred the sourdough best and I should have saved a little for what came next.
My first course was a little exotic and very good.  It was essentially a very flavorful soup containing Manila Clams, Twisted Noodles, Cremini Mushrooms, Prosciutto Broth (which the sour dough bread would have gone exceptionally well with for dipping), Sweet Garlic, Lemon, and Parsley.  I am generally not a huge fan of soups that are mostly broth, because in many cases, the broth is extremely bland.  There was a lot of stuff to chew on in this soup, but the broth itself was so rich and flavorful, even if it had been light on stuff, I would have happily consumed bowls of it.  As it was, the clams, mushrooms, and noodles, contributed to a very rich and flavorful soup.
While the techniques and flavors at Naha would be familiar to those familiar with fine dining restaurants, Chef Carrie Nahabedian also used the techniques and flavors to reference her Armenian heritage.  This would mean an emphasis on lamb and goat and using whole animal cooking.  This is more common now in area restaurants, but when it started 18 years ago, it was very different.  My entree was an example of referencing her Armenian roots using fine dining techniques.  It was a Braised Lamb Shank Off The Bone, served with Lamb Sweetbreads, Hakurei Turnips Glazed with Rosemary and Meyer Lemon, Carrot Puree, and Navarin Jus.  If not done carefully, the textures and tastes of these ingredients can be off putting.  Lamb can have a very gamy flavor, Sweetbreads can be off putting by their very nature, and while turnips have a nice crunchy texture, the flavor can be a little funky.  As it was, the worst aspects of the flavors (to an American palate) were toned down to to create a rich and flavorful dish with tender lamb and fresh and crunchy turnips that had their flavor enhanced with rosemary and meyer lemon, and a flavorful carrot puree.  It was very good and I enjoyed it immensely.
Dessert is always fun because many pastry chefs seem to like expressing their artistic side.  While what I ordered is a classic of Mediterranean dessert cooking, Olive Oil Cake.  It is generally presented similar to a pound cake and is something you might eat with coffee or tea, but what I was served was a work of modern art.  The Olive Oil Cake was served with dollops of Meyer Lemon Custard, Hazelnut Ice Cream, and Mountain Hazelnuts, Honey, Soft Meringue (inside), and a thin stick of White Chocolate.  All of the flavors were very good and it was fun to try everything individually and in combinations.  The best combinations were the olive oil cake with the hazelnut ice cream and with the huckleberries, meyer lemon, meringue and white chocolate.  It was very good, it was a lot of fun, and it was a nice finish to restaurant I haven't gone to often, but have fond memories.
As I was finishing things off, as is the case with many fine dining restaurants, I was presented with a small plate of Mignonettes.  Both were different, one contained chocolate and pistachios, the other contained caramel (and I'm not sure what else) and they were both very good.  I have enjoyed my dinners here and I hope that when they return, it will be with a restaurant at the same level.                

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Eris Brewery & Cider House

 
 

In Greek Mythology, Eris was the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord, sister of Ares, the God of War and the one who instigated the start of the Trojan War by rolling the Golden Apple of Discord in front of Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite inscribed with the words, "For the Fairest One."  It is fitting that a business owned and run by women has chosen the name Eris, both for the apple and the fact that the concept throws a bit of discord into the brewery scene of Chicago.  It is ironic however that the location that was chosen for Eris Brewery and Cider House was in fact a Masonic Temple, an organization that is very much about regimentation and order.  The space itself is a large square shaped brick building, as might be expected from a former Masonic Temple.  It has the look, from the outside, of an old bank or school.  There is a sign above a door, on the east side of the building that says Eris.  It looks, very well, like it could be an entrance but it is not.  The entrance is on the west side of the building and while it very definitely looks like an entrance, there is no sign labeling it Eris.  The only indication of what it is are the door handles which have the arrows pointing in all directions, which is Eris's symbol.  There seems to be two host stations, the first one is just inside the doors at a table that also sells hats, glasses, and other souvenirs, the other is up the stairs at the end of this alcove in another alcove just inside the dining room.  This looks more like a host station and is made from a safe with a desk on top and a Freemason symbol on the door in front.  The first thing that you encounter when you enter the dining room are the enormous padded leather booths that will seat about 12 people each lined up like pews in the center of the room.  The long bar that runs the length of the dining room is on the right side of the room, and there is seating on the left side of the room, as well as a stairway using old radiator parts as a handrail leading to a catwalk with more table seating that overlooks the dining room.  The kitchen is on the opposite side of the room from the entrance and the brewing/fermenting area is located on the left side of the room on the same level as the entrance.  It is best scene behind glass in the far left corner of the dining room.
 

The beer and cider menu is fairly equally split between cider and beer.  They buy juice to ferment the cider instead of squeezing the apples themselves.  Many of the ciders are treated similarly to beers, though the ciders that I liked best were treated more like wine.  I went twice and have tried five ciders and four beers.  Of the beers, my favorite was the New England Style Hazy IPA, Foiken Haze, which had a tropical and juicy flavor, and Fnord, which is a light ale using beets.  The Original Snub, the beer that Fnord is based off of uses Apple Juice, and to me, just isn't that exciting.  Moral Warpitude, their stout, has a bit of a coffee finish, but it's a little light of body.  Of the ciders, I actually had Van Van Mojo twice.  It is a cider with blueberries and mosaic hops added, so it's a both fruity and hoppy and has a dry finish.  It's Tricky is a semi-sweet cider which was pretty good, though nothing that you can't find anywhere else.  Delicate Flower was a cider made with Chamomile and while I generally don't mind floral flavors in moderation, this was too much.  Pedestrian Dry cider was pedestrian, and Prickle Prickle, a dry cider dry hopped with Hallertau Blanc was a little too dry.  While I liked some of the beers and ciders more than others, other than Delicate Flower, there isn't one that I wouldn't order again, and even with Delicate Flower, if someone were to give it to me, I would drink it (slowly).
 
 
For the first course, you can choose from a variety of appetizers, salads, and bar snacks.  I tried a variety of things and they were all very good.  Beer and Cheese (and Cider and Cheese, for that matter) go very well together, so it's no surprise that there is a Cheese Board on the menu.  In addition to the  5 Year White Cheddar, Blue Cheese, Manchego, and Alpine Cheese, we also had Spiced Nuts, Apple Butter, and Thyme (more, I think, for aroma than for anything else) and toast points to eat stuff on.  The cheese was all fresh and good and went well with the more flavorful beers and ciders.  The Duck in the Duck Tacos was thinly sliced, tender and very flavorful and served with lettuce and some Pico de Gallo.  The favorite pre-entree thing that I have had, though, has been the Shaved Brussels Sprouts, which were served with Cranberries, Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and served with Maple Stout Vinaigrette.  It was very fresh and crisp, with a lot of flavors and textures, finishing with the sweet-sour of the Maple Stout Vinaigrette.
 

For entrees, there are both sandwiches and plated dishes.  I have had both and they are both very good.  On the Hand Held/Sandwich side of things, they have your typical Burgers and Hot Dogs, but I wanted to try something different.  I was very surprised, when I saw Cevapcici on the menu.  I had had Cevapcici from a trailer at various street festivals and really liked it.  It is a Croatian Skinless Sausage made with Beef, Pork, and Lamb, typically served with a Red Pepper Sauce on a Pita.  This was all of that as well as Pickled Cucumbers and Onions, Cucumber Yogurt, and Field Greens, served on a Pita Flatbread.  It was served with Fries and Ketchup on the side and was very good.  On the plated side of things, I had a Special which was a Shrimp Creole with Shrimp, Rice, Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, Celery, and Hot Sauce.  It was spicy and flavorful with a lot of shrimp, and very good.
 
The dessert list is small, containing only Bread Pudding and Creme Brulee.  I had both, and while both had their moments, I only really liked one.  The Creme Brulee had Fried Apples and Mint.  While it did have a good flavor, the crust was a little sad and required nothing to crack through.  The Bread Pudding, though, was something else.  It was a Stout Chocolate Bread Pudding with French Bread, White and Milk Chocolate Ganaches, and Almond Bark.  It was both sweet, as a bread pudding is supposed be, with the bitterness of a good stout (as well as lots of chocolate).  The Almond Bark stuck in the top was a nice finish to a good dinner.

Eris is interesting and creative as well as being family friendly.  Because of this it is very popular and frequently crowded.  While I would return, I would make sure to come at an off time like early during the week to avoid having to wait for a seat. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mable's Table - Brunch

There was a little neighborhood restaurant in Bucktown called Jane's that was located in a former bungalow.  It was very distinctive because the bungalow was painted pale blue.  I liked it and was sad when it closed.  Luckily, the location didn't stay closed for long.  It became a restaurant serving chef-driven comfort foods (similar to Jane's) called Mable's Table.  The building was painted and was changed from pale blue to off-white.  Walking into the space, it looked very similar to how it had with a large bar on the right side of the dining room that was connected to the kitchen and tables on the other side.  The walls on the inside are also brick, the floor is hardwood, and the furniture looked very rustic.  The large window in the front lets in natural light.  I am not sure if it existed when Jane's was open, but there is a second dining room connected to the first at the back of the room, near the kitchen.  This is where we dined.  Walking into this dining room, there is a second bar.  This room has some classic elements with a painted tin ceiling and the furniture using classic design, though the light not provided by the large window in the front was provided from hanging globes and the walls are mostly drywall/plaster with some wooden beams toward the front of the room.  The seating was both table and banquette seating (where we sat) with soft throw pillows sitting on the banquette.
The cocktails that Mable's Table serves are basically spins on classics.  They are different from the classics, though it is easy to see the similarity.  I ordered a drink that was a spin on a Moscow Mule, though I neglected to take note of what it was called.  It was served in a Copper Mug and used Vodka, Ginger, and Lemon, but it used sliced Ginger instead of Ginger Beer and used Cider to replace the liquid lost by not using Ginger Beer.  It had a sweet and spicy flavor from the vodka and ginger, but the cider added a bitter sweetness with an apple flavor.  It was also more dry than is a Moscow Mule, but it was very good and I would easily order it again.
While Mable's does have the usual sweet selections of French Toast and Pancakes, they are done in a cheffy way adding such things as Cheese Anglaise or Honey Butter.  They have nice selection of things on the savory side as well.  For my selection, I went with a Brunch Burrito with Scrambled Eggs, Porchetta, and Smoked Provolone that was served with Salsa and Sour Cream.  It was served with a side of what they called Hash Browns, but what I would call Home Fries.  In any case, they are Pan-Fried Sliced Potatoes.  I upgraded them to Hangover Cheesy Jalapeno Hash Browns with Jalapenos, Caramelized Onions, Melted Cheddar Cheese, and Crispy Potatoes.  It was all very good and hearty.

I really enjoyed brunch here and will have to return sometime again for brunch or dinner.  While Jane's will be missed, Mable's Table is a good replacement. 

 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fort Willow

 
 
Having gone to Ada Street many times, I have gotten to know the people that work (and have worked there) and I will frequently follow the chefs that have moved on.  Opening Chef, Zoe Schor, moved on to open her place, Split Rail, last year.  Joanna Stachon, her Sous Chef, was Executive Chef for about 3 years, but has moved on to be the Executive Chef of Anglo-Indian Pub, Pub Royale. Now, Dierdre Quinn, Chef Joanna's Sous Chef has moved on and is serving as opening chef for Fort Willow, DMK's latest venture which is located around the corner from Ada Street.  Like Ada Street, it is largely done in black on the outside and the entrance is kind of unobtrusive.  In the case of Fort Willow, while the building fronts Elston Ave., the entrance is around the corner and in an alcove in the back on Willow Street (hence the name).  There is a neon sign in the alcove pointing to the door, which is good because there is also a stairway there that leads into the unknown.  Once inside the door, you are confronted with a space that is long and narrow with a tree (made of slats) in the middle and next to the bar.  You walk by the kitchen window to get to the dining room and bar (and the tree).  The "crown" of the tree stretches over the bar and dining room.  If you are going to have a tree, a tree swing must be had, and there is one sitting next to a large standing table at the front of the dining room.  As you move past the tree, the large bar is on the left and table seating is on the right.  Seating at the bar is on two sides, opposite the tables and at the end of the bar well into the restaurant.  In the far left corner of the dining room beyond the bar is a blanket fort booth for about seven people and on the far wall is a map of the world for explorers.  As you can see, the design is full of whimsy and tries to bring people back to their childhood imagination.
 
For the cocktails, they serve drinks in House or Classic Form.  In the classic form, they have many classic cocktails like Moscow Mule, Negroni, Martini, or Whiskey Sour, presented as you would find them in any bartender book.  With the house cocktails, they take the classics and serve them with a twist.  Generally that twist is an addition of spice, though some change the liquor.  The comparisons on either side of the House-Classic Line are not completely even, but they generally try to aim for the same style of cocktail.  I am an adventurous eater (and drinker), so I decided to focus on the House side.  For my first cocktail, I went with a Traveler's Sour, which could be compared to a Whiskey Sour.  While a Whiskey Sour starts with Bourbon and adds Lemon, Egg White, and Angostura Bitters, The Traveler's Sour started with Gin and Mezcal and went with Black Peppercorns, and Midori Melon Liquor, finishing with a Blood Orange Garnish.  Admittedly, this was a stretch to compare the two, but the Traveler's Sour did have a bitter start with a sour finish and it was very good.  I am generally not a Midori drinker, but the smokiness of the Mezcal and the peppercorns was able to tie it together with everything else.
The food menu is international and is largely small plates, with each dish labeled with the country (or region) of origin.  For my starter, I went with something called Ikan Bilis, which is a popular Southeast Asian bar snack.  It consisted of Crispy Anchovies, Peanuts, Chilies, and Onion.  While I knew that there would be anchovies, I really didn't know what to expect.  It started out salty, but the anchovies had a nice crunch and while there were chilies in the mix, the heat built gradually.  This was addicting as hell and I could have easily eaten two or three bowls.  There was other food to be tried, though, so I moved on.
When I go out, I always try to at least get some green vegetables and looking at the menu, I saw something that would fulfill that requirement and looked really good.  I ordered the Charred and Chilled Broccoli with Garlic Chips, Pickled Chilies, and Spicy Peanut Sauce.  This was labeled as from Thailand.  While the broccoli used looked like American broccoli and not the Chinese Broccoli that I would expect in that area, I will give it a pass because it was really good.  It was very fresh and crisp.  The char brought out a bitter sweetness which played well with the spicy peanut sauce.  Ada Street did a chilled broccoli dish for a while which this reminded me of.  The Ada Street recipe used tahini, though, and this was more spicy.  In any case, it was very good.
On the bottom of the menu there was something called The Big Bite with the description Chef's Whim.  This very much piqued my curiosity, so I had to ask.  It was a French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Short Rib Stew.  I love French onion soup and the grilled cheese sandwich was a win with Gruyere Cheese and Caramelized Onions on Texas Toast.  The Short Rib Stew that went with it was also very good, but the grilled cheese sandwich hit it out of the park.  The creativity alone was a win, turning the idea of the French Onion Soup with the Beef Sandwich on it's head, but the combination of the two was also fantastic.  They went very well together.
My second cocktail was not as much a stretch between Classic and House Cocktails.  The Classic that the House Cocktail was riffing on was a Negroni, a Gin Cocktail with Sweet Vermouth and Campari.  I imagine the House Cocktail, the Tree Fort Punch, was lower in alcohol than the original because the only liquor it used was gin, but it was very good.  In addition to the gin, it used Sencha Green Tea, and Mint.  It was bitter with an herbal and botanical flavor as Negronis do, but it was lighter than a Negroni and had a punch-like flavor.
To finish things off, I had a choice of Mochi or a Horchata Creme Brulee.  While I am a little picky about my Creme Brulees, I like a crust that sounds a noticeable crack when tapped, but I like Horchata (Cinnamon flavored Rice Milk popular in Mexico and South America) and I really don't care for Mochi, so the decision was easy.  The custard part of the creme brulee was very good and I thought that the cinnamon rice noodles added the flavor of horchata very well, I was a little disappointed with the crust and thought that it could have been bruleed more.  Despite this small disappointment, I thought that it tasted good and made for a nice ending to a very good restaurant.  I will definitely return for more adventurous tastes and will invite friends.