Sunday, February 26, 2017

Monteverde - Restaurant Week

My second previously unvisited restaurant that I dined at during restaurant week was the very popular Monteverde in the West Loop.  Run by Top Chef Runner Up and former Executive Chef at Italian fine dining restaurant Spiaggia, Sarah Grueneberg, it is a temple to housemade pasta, which ironically, was something that I did not have.  Monteverde literally means Green Mountain and, unsurprisingly the main color scheme is olive green.  The building in which it is located is a large blocky brick building with green awnings.  The main dining room is shaped like an "L" with the bar on the inside corner and the entrance on the outside corner.  The pasta making station is in the same area as the bar and there is a counter located right after you enter (the outside of the vertical part of the L) behind the host station where you could buy bags of dried pasta.  In the center of the top shelf, there were several volumetric flasks, a piece of scientific glassware to accurately measure or deliver a specific volume of liquid.  It appears, though, that they were just there for design because when I asked the guy manning the counter what they were used for, he had no idea.  There was a second dining room on the road side of the L that looked like it held the wine collection although I didn't go to get a closer look.  The dining furniture in our dining room was mismatched.  The tables by the windows looked to be heavy wood, there were several marble topped round tables in the center.  I sat on what looked like a long patio couch that had three two tops sitting in front of it and was very comfortable.
As soon as I was seated, I was given a Mason jar of Italian Breadsticks (called Grissini).  They were crisp, buttery, very long, very hard to stop eating once you started, and a nice start to what would be a very good meal.
There was a wine pairing offered for the Restaurant Week 3 course Prix Fixe, but I wasn't really interested in wine, so I ordered a cocktail.  Called a Sardinian Bandit, it started with Death's Door Gin, Mirto Judu (a Sardinian Liqueur made from the berries of the Myrtle Plant), Lemon, Absinthe, and Egg White.  It was sweet, tart, a little, bitter, with an herbal and berry flavor, and a light egg white topping.  
While the Restaurant Week menu was 3 courses, I wanted to get a broader view of their regular menu so I added another dish.  While I could have added a pasta dish, the pasta dishes are essentially entrees and I wasn't sure that I could comfortably eat two entrees, in addition to an appetizer and dessert.  As it was,  I decided on a very nice Hamachi Crudo, basically the Italian version of sushi.  It came with Tomato Chile Water, Avocado, Mint, Fennel, and Blood Orange.  The Hamachi, the Japanese name for Pacific Yellowtail, was thinly sliced, very tender, and had a great flavor.  The tomato chile water gave it a spicy brightness that finished with some sweetness from the blood orange.  The avocado was light and delicate while adding a "green" flavor to the dish.  While it was all good, I think the tomato chile water was what made it.
For my second appetizer, I went with Polpettine Fritte, Country Ham Croquettes with Red Eye Gravy.  The croquettes were crispy, filled with chopped ham and, I think, a little cheese.  They were all topped with a little hot sauce to enhance the flavor.  They were sitting in a bed of red eye gravy which seemed to be very similar to tarter sauce with coffee.  The gravy may have sounded a bit unusual, but it was good and went well with the croquettes.
My main course seemed to be one of those things that just shouldn't work.  It was a Skate Wing Schnitzel with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Kraut, Sesame, Roasted Beets, and Bacon.  Skate Wing is really good, but I ordered this because this seemed to be one of those things that just shouldn't work (Skate and Schnitzel). The sweetness from the beets and bacon tied well with the sweet and sour flavor of the kraut and the sesame kind of gave it an Asian flavor (which tied with the kraut).  The mushrooms added a sweet and earthy flavor and it all tied together to a very good sweet and sour German-Asian Mashup.
And then there was dessert.  I am always a sucker for a good Panna Cotta and this panna cotta sounded really good.  It was listed as a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Winter Citrus.  The Winter Citrus was Blood Orange.  There were also Housemade Marshmallows and Graham Cracker Crumbs contributing which kind of reminded me of trying to eat a pie upside down.  It was sweet, with a slight tartness, a great vanilla flavor, and the graham cracker crumbs added a nice crunch.  This dessert finished off a great dinner here.  It was very friendly, the atmosphere was very welcoming, and the food was very good.  I will have to return one day so I can actually try the pasta. 

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