Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Boarding House - Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week is an event that I participate in every year.  Restaurants participating in Restaurant Week will offer a 3 course prix fixe menu for $22 for lunch, or $33 or $44 for dinner.  While the menu is limited, it does allow me to both see what a restaurant that I have not yet visited is about or to revisit a restaurant that I have previously visited and liked at a discount.  Admittedly, you do have to do your research beforehand because the offerings that some restaurants make are not a discount and in some cases, you will pay a premium for a reduced menu.  This year, there were about 300 restaurants participating in Restaurant Week.  I am obviously not going to visit all of the participating restaurants, so I pick restaurants that I think that I will enjoy and may offer a good deal.  The first restaurant that I visited for Restaurant Week was The Boarding House, a restaurant/wine bar run by former Check Please! host and Master Sommelier, Alpana Singh.  The restaurant, is a multistory space that was formerly a fairly high profile nightclub, Club 720, but there were obviously a bunch of changes made in order to become its present incarnation.  The first floor is occupied by the high-ceilinged wine bar.  The bar is three sided and occupies the center of the room with tables surrounding the exterior of the room.  Above the bar is an enormous installation made up of over 9000 wine glasses.  It is just awesome in it's size and the number of glasses that it contains.  It is apparently held together by museum quality hanging wire. The wine cellar for this large space is located in the basement, which is also open for private parties.  The second floor is for the kitchen and a private dining room.  The third and fourth floors are the main dining room.  There is an elevator that transports you up to the dining floor with a host station posted just into the room.  The host stations between the first and third floors communicate via tablet so the third floor host is prepared for a party arriving.  I arrived after my friend who I met in the wine bar.  When we were ready, we were directed to the elevator, met by the host at the entrance to the dining room, which had an even higher ceiling than the wine bar and also had a large hanging installation, this one composed of wine bottles.  Our seat was on the fourth floor which was actually a balcony overlooking the third floor (and the wine bottle installation).  I should have taken a picture of the view, but I didn't think about it at the time.  The Restaurant Week menu was $44 unless you ordered the Risotto as a main course which was offered for $33.  They also offered an optional wine pairing for an additional $28.  I figured that if I was going to be dining at a restaurant run by a Master Sommelier, it would be an absolute shame not to try the wine offered.  I started things off with a Grilled Baby Octopus with Confit Potatoes, Chorizo, Shishito Peppers, Grilled Lemon, and Squid Ink Aioli.  I liked this even before I took a bite because the presentation was done so well.  The octopus was served in large chunks which gave diners something to bite into.  The potatoes were small potatoes served whole and served as a base of the tower that was the dish.  They were nicely tender and added depth to the dish.  The Chorizo (Spanish), the Shishito Peppers, and the Grilled Lemon were chopped finely and added flavor and textural variety.   The wine served with this was a lightly flavored Rose which went as well as I would have expected.
For my main course I went with the Risotto option (the other options being King Salmon or Amish Chicken).  While the other options did sound good, the risotto was what spoke to me most.  The Risotto was a Mushroom Risotto with Porcini Broth, Wild Mushrooms including Oyster, Shiitake, and Maitake, Parmesan, and Truffle Cream.  The risotto was very creamy with plenty of mushrooms and had a fairly prominent truffle aroma (but not overpowering).  The pairing for this was an Italian white that was not exceptionally tannic and went even better with the risotto than the rose did with the octopus.
For our dessert, while we technically only had one choice, it was actually a tasting of three different desserts.  We were offered Julia's Carrot Cake, an Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookie, and a Flourless Chocolate Cake.  The carrot cake (named for Julia Fitting, the Pastry Chef) had a high bar to cross because my mother makes a fantastic carrot cake, but it was a win.  The cake was very moist with a sour cream frosting.  The oatmeal sandwich cookie was also very moist with a cream cheese filling, and the flourless chocolate cake was rich and dense and was topped with a chocolate disc that looked familiar when I remembered I had seen her using it as a garnish at a Buche de Noel competition at Cafe Des Architectes in 2014.  The wine pairing was a very sweet red with raisin and plum flavors.  It was a great finish to a very good meal and I would be happy to return for both a good dinner and the wine.     

No comments:

Post a Comment