Sunday, October 30, 2011
I went to C-House Restaurant on Saturday night. It is listed as the restaurant of James Beard Award Winning Chef, Marcus Samuelsson. While Chef Samuelsson is the Executive Chef, he is also based in New York and the job of achieving his vision falls on his Chef de Cuisine, Nicole Pederson, who, among other things was last Sous Chef at Lula Cafe. Located in the Affinia Hotel in Streeterville, C-House is largely a seasonal restaurant focusing on seafood although it does have some fowl and red meat on the menu. The restaurant is in a high celinged room that is fairly narrow and deep with an open kitchen. The walls and ceiling are white but there is a lot of copper and brown trim and several sepia-toned photographs with a nautical theme. All of the tables were pretty large and I was seated in a very comfortable corner on a leather bench seat with some nice pillows. While I was perusing the menu, I was brought a bowl of bread. Now I wouldn't normally talk about bread because most places will provide you with bread and most of the time it is pretty good but this bread was amazing. It was a small round loaf sliced into six pieces and sprinkled with cheese. The loaf was very soft but the crust had a very light crispiness. While C-House does have items on their menu that are not seafood and both Marcus Samuelsson and Nicole Pederson are both talented chefs, because C-House is nominally a seafood restaurant, I decided to stick with those food items that started with shells and/or lived in the water. For my appetizer, I ordered an oven-roasted tomato and escargot terrine with bulgur wheat, confited fennel, topped with frisee, and served with a toasted baguette. A terrine, for those who are unfamiliar, is similar to a pate, although it is ground to a rougher texture. My past experience with escargot has had it cooked with a lot of garlic which will make anything taste good. In this case, while the snails were chopped, they had the texture that I was used to, that of a slightly tough mushroom. The flavor was more subtle but it was still good. It had a slightly beefy earthy flavor and the roasted tomatoes were chewy and had an intense tomato flavor. It was all very good, especially on the toasted baguette and it got me ready for my entree.The entree was incredible. It was an explosion of flavors and textures and would have been good even without the main protein. It consisted of thick, hand-cut pasta, pepitos (fried pumpkin seeds), calabrian peppers, aleppo pepper, fried baby octopus, and guanciale. It was slightly spicy and very lemony so I have to guess that there was quite a bit of lemon juice that was also included in the dish. It was both crunchy and chewy and so good that I cleaned my plate very well. This was one of the cheaper entrees on the menu and I felt a little guilty about that so I also ordered a side of house cut french fries with house made ketchup. The fries were good although they weren't as good as the frites that I have had at other places. the ketchup was sweet, slightly spicy, and peppery and was some of the best ketchup that I have had.While I did like the fries, I was wondering about my decision to order them when it came time to order dessert. I wasn't full after I had eaten all of this but I had a feeling that I would be on the uncomfortable side of full if I ordered dessert. One of the best thing about going to many fine dining establishments is the dessert and I had had a cupcake made by the pastry chef of C-House when I was at the Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball so I wasn't going to turn dessert away. I would deal with the discomfort. The dessert was eye opening and made me come to the conclusion that I am going to have to amend my likes and dislikes. On the menu it was listed as gingerbread with pears, figs, and creme fraiche. I have mentioned in the past that I don't like pears but I don't have a problem trying them in a dish. If I don't like them, I will just deal with it. What the dish consisted of was 3 slices of gingerbread with a fig puree between them, a creme fraich gelato on top, and poached pears spread around the dish. There were also long slices of lemon zest winding through the gelato. Dessert was very good, even including the pears. I have had cooked pears several times and have not had a problem with them. I think what I don't like is raw pears.
This was a very good meal at a nice restaurant. I really enjoyed the food and the service was excellent. While this place is nominally a seafood restaurant, I think that I may try the steak, chicken or pork, the next time I visit. The chefs here are very talented and there is nothing to say that they can't do something other than seafood.