Monday, March 4, 2013


It may seem counter-intuitive to give a restaurant a rather ambiguous name and to not label the entrance with anything other than the address number but for the restaurant Untitled, it seems to be working.  Located in the basement below 111 W. Kinzie Ave. in Chicago's, River North neighborhood, Untitled is modeled after an old-time speakeasy.  While you don't need a password to get in, because there is no real sign, it helps to know where you're going.  Once you gain entrance though, it is fairly obvious that you are at the right place.  The front door opens to a landing above a very wide set of stairs leading to the basement.  There is also a haberdasher advertising window inside the building, opposite the front door.  The handrails for the stairs are wrought steel and are rather ornate.  Once you reach the floor, you see that the proprietors are pretty serious about presenting the illusion of a speakeasy.  The floor is painted (and sealed) cement and the walls are mostly curtain covered. In the areas where the walls are not curtain covered, the walls can be seen to be old brick and in several rooms, there are many large Art Deco style paintings. The ceiling is mostly unfinished with hanging lights and chandeliers.  The first room that you enter after reaching the main floor is essentially the entry hall with the captain's station (where you check in for seating), mandatory coat check, and lounge chairs.  There are several rooms off of this room.  One room is essentially a waiting area bar (although you can dine there if you choose) with a bar and several hi-top tables.  The room opposite that is the main dining area which is done in white and has several chandeliers.  The remaining room is a combination bar, lounge, dining area with a very long bar, several 4-top tables and a couple of long communal tables.  This room also has live entertainment on the weekends.  I started in the waiting bar and moved to the room with the live entertainment when my party was complete.  I came to Untitled for Restaurant Week and while most restaurants were doing three and four course meals, they were doing what essentially what worked out to be a tour through the menu with six and eleven course menus.  I figured that in order to get a good idea of what they are like, it would make sense to go for the larger menu.  I also figured that if they were serving more courses, they would cut down on the serving size.  I may have been wrong on that point.  If they didn't cut down on serving size, then their normal serving sizes are enormous.  For the most part, after I ordered, the courses came out rapid fire and there were times where I would have two or three courses in front of me at once.  For my first course, I had the Oyster Rockefeller.  As I was brought only one oyster, it did follow for me that the serving sizes might be smaller than normal.  In most situations, if you order Oysters Rockefeller, you will receive two or three oysters.  The fact that I only received one though did not bother me as I was going to have a lot of food to eat.  The oyster was served in the shell (as would be expected) with Spinach Artichoke Fondue, Bacon Bread Crumbs, and topped with Parmesan Cheese.  While I did receive a fork to eat this with, as it was in the shell, I picked it up and slurped it so I could get all of the juices.  It was a very good oyster and the spinach and cheese just added to it.

For my next course, I had a Little Gem Caesar Salad with Smoked Chicken, Brioche Crostini, and Gordal Olives.  I am generally not a big salad eater but I will eat it and I do like Caesars.  This was very good with small and crisp lettuce leaves, a good amount of Parmesan cheese, and enough dressing to lightly coat everything.  The crostini had a nice crunch, and there was enough chicken to provide texture and taste but not enough to make it a chicken dish with lettuce.  The dish provided a nice tang and got me ready for my next plate.

I will admit when the next dish arrived, I was a little overwhelmed.  I like charcuterie and cheese both but the size of the plate for a single person expecting many more dishes was a little overwhelming.  On the plate were samples of three types of charcuterie including a ham and a salami, three types of cheese, a cheddar, a blue, and a goat cheese, gherkins, fig jam, apple jam, and crostini to eat the meat and cheese with.  It was good and it was interesting to try everything by itself and in combinations but it did take a little work to get through.

After the oyster, salad, and charcuterie and cheese, we more or less followed the standard dinner progression with seafood or fish and then meat.  In this case, it was seafood and meat on the same plate.  I was served a Diver Scallop and Short Rib, with Herbed Bread Pudding, over a Kabocha Squash Puree.  While I thought all of the elements sounded good, when it was presented to me, I have to admit that I didn't see how it was going to work together.  After trying it, I saw that the binding part was the squash puree.  The scallop was slightly sweet and had a nice sear, the short rib was extremely tender and had a sweet glaze on it, and the herbed bread pudding had a nice crunch on the outside with a soft interior and an herbaceous flavor.  The squash puree was very creamy and provided the sweetness that tied everything together.

The next course was probably my favorite.  It was the dish that they served at the First Bites Bash and while it sounds kind of simple, there is something about it that just awakens my taste buds.  It was a couple of Grit Cakes topped with Tomato Jam.  The cake was deep fried and crunchy on the outside and very soft on the inside.  The tomato jam provided both a sweetness and brightness to the dish and somewhere, in the jam or the cake, there was a little spiciness.  It was a really good dish and I was glad to see it on this menu as well.

The next course, while also pretty good, went pretty quickly.  The serving size was on the small side which was fine because after all of this food, I was starting to feel a little full.  It was a couple of Slagel Farms Meatballs with Stewed Peppers and Black Garlic Gremolata.  The meatballs were tender and the stewed peppers and gremolata were so flavorful that while they did add to the meatballs, they were good by themselves.

The next dish was Shrimp and Grits and I am sure that it was very good.  I would guess this because all of the dishes up to this point were very good.  I will admit though that it wasn't my favorite dish partially because I was getting full and partially that I have had some really good shrimp and grits elsewhere.  The shrimp was tender and the grits were creamy although the gravy wasn't as dark as I normally like it.  The grits were pretty buttery though so there was that.

The next dish was Cornbread with Maple Bourbon Butter and Bacon.  The cornbread itself was sweet and soft although with a typical cornbread texture.  The bourbon butter provided some moisture and a slightly smoky flavor and everything is better with bacon.  I would really like to say that I enjoyed this but as this was the 9th of an eventual 11 courses.  It tasted good but I was so full that I really couldn't enjoy it and was actually looking forward to the end.

My final savory course was a Slagel Farms Chicken with a Bourbon-Soy Glaze and Braised Tuscan Kale.  The braised kale reminded me of spinach.  The chicken was probably some of the best chicken I have tasted.  It was amazingly tender and flavorful even without the glaze but I was served half a chicken and there was no way I was going to be able to eat half a chicken after all I had previously eaten.

While service up to this point was amazingly good, they found a bar stool for me to sit at the bar in the room with the live entertainment, the flow of the dishes was very good, and the wait staff was very attentive.  However, there was a hiccup in service after my final savory dish and I had to alert one of the bartenders that I had not received my dessert.  I ended up waiting about 15 minutes after my dishes were cleared for my dessert to arrive (delivered by the bartender that I had alerted).  I am not sure if the wait was a good or a bad thing.  I was very full but I had paid for my dessert so I wanted my dessert.  Dessert was a thing of beauty.  It was a Chocolate Mousse with chunks of White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and Candied Cashews.  It was sweet, and creamy with a lot of textural and flavor variety.  I really enjoyed it even if I was pretty miserable when I finished it.

The service and design of Untitled are very cool and the food was good even if I was served way too much.  I would recommend the restaurant to others and will return though I will definitely try not to eat so much.   

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