Saturday, October 24, 2015

River Roast

As odd as it sounds, when considering a new restaurant, the name is a major consideration.  There is a restaurant that opened up last year on the Chicago River and had some bid names behind it (Restauranteur, Tony Mantuano and Chef, John Hogan).  Despite the chefs and their backgrounds, I found the name of the restaurant, River Roast, to be one of the most uninteresting names they could come up with.  Since it has opened, I had heard a lot of good things about the food, and I had had several of Chef John Hogan's Terrines at various benefits which were really good, but I just couldn't get past the name.  The restaurant is located on the north side of the Chicago River, and in fact, has a great patio view of the river.  While the entrance of the restaurant is at street level (obviously) the dining room is downstairs at river level.  We were not on the patio, but we were at a table inside that overlooked the patio.  The wall facing the patio was all glass and looked like it could be opened on warm days (The day on which we visited was definitely not warm, but there were still a few brave souls sitting on the patio).  Our table, like many of the tables in the place was a 4 top hi top and while we did manage, it was really too small for the amount of food that we ordered.  It could have folded out to make a bigger table, but as I said, we managed.  While Chef Hogan is known for his charcuterie, we started things out with a couple of things that were definitely not charcuterie, a Scotch Egg with Pickled Red Onions and Pickled Mustard Seed, and Shrimp and Crab Toast.  I really like Scotch Eggs and this one was done exceptionally well.  It starts with a boiled egg, this one was soft boiled.  It is then wrapped in sausage, breaded and fried.  It has a crispy crust with well cooked sausage and a flavorful egg in the middle.  The mustard and onions added some tartness to the dish which was very much enjoyed.  The Shrimp and Crab Toast was a mixture of finely chopped shrimp and crab with Avocado served on some nice crispy wedges of toast.

For our next selections, we went with Golden Gobbets, which were Crispy Fried Chicken Nuggets served with Honey, and Hogan's Charcuterie, which was the Chef's choice of Charcuterie.   The Golden Gobbets were served in a square basket lined with kraft paper (I imagine to soak up the extra grease) which sat on a board with a jar of golden honey.  They were crispy and tender, and had a great fried chicken flavor that had sweetness added when the honey was added.  The chicken was very good, so the honey was really unnecessary, but it did add to it when used lightly.  The charcuterie plate was a thing of beauty.  It contained 5 "cuts" of meat, Breseola, a dried and salted beef sausage, Head Cheese, a terrine containing scraps from the head of a calf or pig and set in aspic, a Pheasant Terrine, a Duck and Fig Terrine, and Pickled Veal Tongue.  In adition, it was served with Toasted Bread, Cranberries, Cornichons, and two types of mustard.  It was great.  The meats had a variety of flavors and textures and were good with or without the accompaniments.
After all of this, we got on to the roasts, the main courses which, while on three boards, were brought out and sliced on a single tray.  Most of the roasts were for two people, although one, the 8 oz serving of Roast Beef served with Horseradish, Jus, and a Popover, was an 8 oz serving for a single person.  We also ordered a Rack of Pork, which was served with Cider Vinegar and Apple Smoked Cornbread, and Branzino, a Roasted Fish served with Mediterranean Chips, a higher end spin on Fish and Chips.  We also ordered a side of RR Potatoes which were pan fried and crispy and presented in the pan.
The Roast Beef was rare and tender, the popover was tall and fluffy, and the horseradish and jus, added a nice finish to the meat.
The Rack of Pork was presented sliced with the Cider Vinegar already added and the bones to the side for anyone that happened to want to gnaw on a bone. There was some cider vinegar left for anyone that thought that it needed more, but it was very good as it was.  This may have been my favorite meat.  The cornbread was sweet with the slightest hint of applewood smoke.
The fish was presented as a whole  breaded fish on a skewer.  We ended up eating it, basically, by pulling pieces off.  While it was mostly deboned, we kind of had to watch it with small bones around the head and tail.  It was very good.  The meat was tender and flavorful and I actually surprised myself a little by working on the head after everyone else had finished with it.
While we did have a lot to eat, not having dessert was not an option.  On the dessert menu was Ice Cream, Pudding, a selection of Bundt Cakes, and a Dessert Terrine, what I saw though was the Fat Elvis, A Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with a Peanut, Pretzel, and Graham Cracker Crust and topped with Pretzels and Dried Bananas.  The peanut butter and chocolate were actually in separate layers, with the chocolate on the bottom having the consistency of fudge and the creamy peanut butter on top.  It was a great pie and a great way to finish the meal.

While I really liked dinner here, the food was great, as was the service and the great view, if I were to return here, I would make sure to have someone with me because their food is made for sharing and for the most part, it really isn't conducive to dining alone.    

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