Sunday, April 6, 2014

GT Fish and Oyster

The chefs in Chicago seem to have a pretty friendly and supportive relationship among one another for the most part.  At the same time, there is definitely a competition among various restauranteurs.  There have been many times that various restaurant groups have opened similar restaurants within months of one another.  In one case, the Boka Group and DMK opened their version of an east coast seafood shack within months of one another.  I talked about DMK's Fish Bar a few months ago, I recently decided to try out Boka's version, GT's Fish and Oyster to see what in direction that they decided to go.  Located in River North, GT's Fish and Oyster is decidedly more upscale than is Fish Bar.  This is not a criticism of either restaurant, it is simply an observation that they decided to go after different crowds.  GT's Fish and Oyster does have a decidedly nautical theme after you get past the large windows.  The space is divided into two rooms, The interior walls of the front room, which contains the bar and a communal table in addition to several two tops, are all thin interlocking slats painted white.  There is also a lot of brass and hanging lanterns provide the light.  There are also many nautical themed paintings hanging in the front room.  The back dining room has banquette seating with black tables and a black wall with a painting of a swordfish skeleton and the quote, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."  - Jonathan Swift.  I sat in the front room at the bar so I only saw the rear room in passing.  The bar looked like it was made from a deck and had brass tags with different names (that I didn't recognize) in front of each seat.  There were about 10 seats on one side before it turned a corner and had about 6 more seats.  The shelf behind the bar was glass and brass and featured many higher end liquors.  Looking over their cocktail and beer menu, I saw that they had a respectable beer list (4 on draft and 18 bottles) and 9 cocktails.  I decided to go with a cocktail called The Waitlist which contained Russian Standard Vodka, St. Germain, Grapefruit, and Averna Bitters.  The description reminded me of something that I had had previously, of course I seem also to be on a bit of a St. Germain kick as well.  In any case, I like grapefruit and it was a very good drink.
For my appetizer, I decided with a Tuna Poke which is similar to a Tuna Tartare although the cut is a bit more coarse.  It was served with Mango Puree, Thinly Sliced Cucumbers, a little Cilantro, and was topped with Pickled Mango and Black Sesame.  This was very light and fresh and really reminded me of the impending Spring weather.  The mango emphasized the sweetness of the tuna and the black sesame added a little bitterness.  The cucumber, also sweet, added a crunchy finish.
I then added a slider which, while it was good, didn't make a lot of sense as far as meal progression was concerned, but that was my own fault.  It was an Oyster Po' Boy Slider with Kimchi and Peanuts.  The oyster was breaded and deep fried and was crispy and a little spicy.  The kimchi added to the spiciness and the finely ground peanuts added a vaguely Thai flavor and a little crunch other than the oyster.  The slider was small, as sliders are, but it was very good and had an outsize flavor.
 My entree was decidedly more main course like than the slider was.  It consisted of Kabocha Squash Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms, Burrata, and Crab and was topped with Pepitas and Fried Thyme Leaves.  Everything about this dish was good.  The gnocchi was very tender and had a great squash flavor.  The Burrata was very rich and creamy.  The Oyster Mushrooms added a savory element that played well with the crab which was thinly shredded and spread throughout the dish.  The pepitas and Thyme added a nice finish.

For dessert, I challenged myself.  I am not generally a fan of popcorn, but I will try it if it's in a dish that sounds interesting.  For this dessert, the pastry chef did a spin on Garrett Popcorn Chicago Mix.  The Chicago Mix is a mixture of cheddar and caramel corn.  For this dessert the chef had a Caramel Semifreddo, to which was added Corn Bread, Caramel and Cheddar Popcorn, Cheddar Tuile, and more Caramel.  I will say that it was a very nice looking dessert and I really liked the Semifreddo.  The cornbread topped with the caramel was an interesting flavor combination as the cornbread was a bit on the savory side.  The cheddar tuile reminded me of Cheez-Its, and the popcorn, while good for popcorn, was still popcorn.  If you like popcorn and like desserts with a savory edge to them, you may very well like this.  For me, while I liked the look of it and did like some elements, I will probably never order this again.

I really liked my meal here.  The food was very good and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable.  The space was clean and had a nice feel to it.  As far as the comparison between Fish Bar and GT's Fish and Oyster, there really is no comparison.  They are both seafood houses but they go in different directions and are very good at what they do.     

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