Saturday, November 3, 2012


Until it closed in January, one sixtyblue had been my favorite restaurant.  I was very disappointed when it closed but it did give me an opportunity to explore.  one sixtyblue had been part of a restaurant group owned by Michael Jordan called Cornerstone.  After having liked one sixtyblue, I figured that the restaurant group would maintain some type of culinary standard.  There are a couple of other Cornerstone restaurants in Chicago (actually three if you count belly Q, the restaurant that replaced one sixtyblue) and while I have not been to any of them, I had been to a couple of chef demos featuring chefs that ran other Cornerstone restaurants so I thought I had a little familiarity with them.  I decided to go to Wave recently, one of the Cornerstone restaurants that I had been to a demo for.  Wave is located on the North side in the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive.  The dining room is located in the front of the hotel to the right of the main entrance at the bottom of a short stairway with the bar actually in the lobby of the hotel.  There is also a nice patio at the front of the hotel that overlooks Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan.  The dining room is relatively narrow with a lot of flowing curves (like waves).  There is a 10 place communal table in the center of the room with several round tables on the main floor and large four tops with couches for seating on either side of the table on an elevated area in front of the window that overlooks the patio, Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan.    This was where I was seated.  The lighting consisted of candles on the tables and some multicolored LED lights that sort of reminded me of nightclub lighting (as did the background music).  Wave serves seasonal and locally sourced Mediterranean style cuisine.  That can actually mean a lot of things but frequently includes things such as olives, garlic, capers, fresh vegetables, and/or pasta.  Not all of my dishes reflected this entire idea but there were elements to be found in my meal.  I started out with House-Made Spaghetti with Garlic Sausage, Charred Cauliflower, Capers, Pecorino Cheese, and Oregano.  There were several elements of this dish that sounded really good on the menu but I was unsure about the Charred Cauliflower.  I needn't have worried.  While there was plenty of cauliflower in the dish, and part of the florets on each of the pieces were blackened, they were just blackened and not carbonized as I was worrying about.  The cauliflower itself was kind of toothsome as was the spaghetti.  The dish smelled strongly of capers (because there were a lot of capers in the dish.  The garlic sausage was garlicky as one might expect and the entire dish had a nice tangy and spicy flavor to it.

For my entree, I chose Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish which was served with Clams (In Shell) on top of Smashed Red Nordland Potatoes, and topped with Kale.  While monkfish are a really ugly fish (they are a type of anglerfish) they provide for a nice sized piece of meat that tastes really good.  The fact that it was wrapped in prosciutto just added to the pleasure of eating it.  I like clams but was caught a little off guard (even if I probably shouldn't have been) because most of the time when I have had clams, they have been breaded and fried.  It did take a little more work to get to them but it was worth it.  The smashed potatoes were well cooked and seasoned and added to the overall flavor of the dish and then there was the kale.  Kale is a leaf vegetable that frequently reminds me of spinach.  It has a lot of uses from salad greens to fried kale chips.  This was well seasoned and pan fried, although not enough for it to lose it's fresh crispiness.  I did expect some spiciness but I didn't expect the level of heat that was on the kale.  I asked about the kale's seasoning and was told such things as salt, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of red pepper.  I actually think that more red pepper was added than was planned for.  While it was pretty spicy, it wasn't so spicy to me that it was made inedible.  Overall, it was a well seasoned and spicy dish that I did enjoy.

After the appetizer and entree, it was time for dessert.  Wave does their dessert menu a little differently than other restaurants.  While none of the items on the dessert menu was unusual in and of itself, how it was served was what made it different.  The desserts were served in what was called Sweet Bites.  For $8, you could choose three, for $10 for four desserts, and $12 for five.  While the idea of trying five desserts did cross my mind, I thought I would actually try to enjoy the desserts instead of becoming gorged by them and only ordered three.  I ordered a Ginger Creme Brulee, a Dark Chocolate Brownie topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, and a Panna Cotta with Espresso Gelee.  The desserts were served on a single plate that was garnished with chocolate syrup.  I decided that in order to taste the desserts properly, I would have to eat them one at a time, so I attacked them from left to right.  The Creme Brulee was done well.  The crust was nice and thick and provided a good crunch to the creamy custard below it.  The ginger provided a nice bit of spice as a counterpoint to what would have been simply a very sweet custard. While sweet is good making the tastes of a dish a little more complex is better.  Next came the brownie and I will admit that I love brownies.  This bite provided a little bit of comfort food between a couple of bites that were a little more exotic.  I like my brownie to tend to the fudge side (as opposed to the cake side) and this one hit the right point.  The outside was slightly crisp and the inside was very moist and chewy.  It was served warm underneath the cool vanilla ice cream and it was all covered with chocolate syrup.  My only complaint for this dish was that I wanted more.  My last dessert bite was the panna cotta with espresso gelee.  Panna cotta is another very simple and creamy custard that is nice on it's own but can be made so much better with the addition of something else, in this case espresso gelee, espresso that had been gelatinized.  This may have been my favorite dessert.  It came out in what looked like a water glass so you could see that it was layered.  The thin top layer was the espresso which, as you might expect, was like bittersweet coffee.  The next layer was the panna cotta followed by coffee, custard, another layer of coffee, and the bottom layer of custard.  It was all very good individually and together.  It was very creamy and if eaten together, it reminded me of a cool cappuccino.

After reading this, you would probably get the impression that I really liked this place and you would not be completely wrong.  The food was really good, the waiter was nice and helpful, and the place looked nice with a great view of Lake Michigan.  While I wouldn't mind coming back here.  The atmosphere, while not cold, didn't seem exceptionally welcoming.  It felt like what it was, a hotel restaurant.  While I might come back for the food, I won't be back for the atmosphere.  

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