Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Metropolitan Club - Chicago Restaurant Week

Friends joke that for me, Chicago Restaurant Week is like Christmas.  It takes place at the end of January and this year, ran for two weeks.  For restaurant week, several hundred Chicago restaurants create a 3 or 4 course prix fixe menu priced $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner.  While I will occasionally visit old favorites, I also like to use Chicago Restaurant Week as a way to try out restaurants that I have not yet visited.  The first place I started was The Metropolitan Club, a private club in Willis (Sears) Tower that is normally not open for outside diners.  As it is a private club where I would normally be unable to dine, I decided to try it out to see what I might be missing.  I did receive a note when making my reservation that it is preferred that men wear suit coats on the weekends.  As it was the weekend when we were dining, I saw that I would need to wear one of my jackets.  I have worn a jacket to dinner before, and will on a special occasion, generally I prefer not to and hoped that the restaurant was as special as it required it's guests to be and not just snooty.  In order to get to the club, it is necessary to go through security and then take an elevator to the 66th floor and an escalator to the 67th.  The entrance to the restaurant passes a hallway with what looked like private rooms, but walking into the restaurant dining room it felt very elegant.  The walls were windows looking out over the city, the floor was carpeted, and the lights were electric chandeliers.  We were seated in a semi-circular booth that was slightly elevated, but sat away from the windows.  Despite that, it was still a great view.  When we were seated, we received a wine list, a regular menu, and the restaurant week menu.  I was not interested in wine that night, so I decided on a cocktail from their short list.  It was called Tito's Lemon Chai which perfectly describes what it was.  It started with Tito's Handmade Vodka and added Chai Spice and Lemon Angostura Bitters.  It was pretty good with an herbal flavor and a nice bitter lemon finish.
We decided to mostly order from the Restaurant Week Menu, but to add an additional appetizer.  While we were deciding this we received a very nice Bread plate with French Bread served with Tapenade, Whipped Butter, and Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil.  The bread had a nice crispy crust and a soft interior and went well with all of the spreads.  Of the three, I think I preferred the whipped butter best.
Our first appetizer was our extra appetizer.  It was Foie Gras with Arugula, Blueberries, and Toast Points.  It was very rich and the fatty foie gras went well with the bitter of the arugula and the sweetness of the slightly dried blueberries.  It was all good, but we did need to ask for more toast points.  While we could have eaten everything without, it was better on bread.
My second appetizer was a favorite, Beef Carpaccio.  It was colorful, flavorful and very, very tender.  Served with the thinly sliced beef were Capers, Romano Cheese, and Truffled Olive Oil.  The beef was paper thin and almost melt in your mout tender, the Capers brought a slightly sour flavor, the Romano cheese, added richness, and the truffled olive oil added a funk that is indescribable unless, you have had truffles.  It is an acrid flavor/aroma that doesn't seem like it should be agreeable, but it is almost like catnip to cats.  It was very good and I would have been happy to have had twice as much.
The entree, on the other hand, I was surprised by its enormity.  I had Lump Crab and Pesto Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Toasted Pine Nuts, Romano Cheese, and Balsamic Reduction.  This was very good, very rich, very flavorful, and I ended up taking half of it home.  The gnocchi was very tender and the sun-dried tomatoes brought an intense tomato flavor.  The pieces of crab were large and brought a sweet seafood flavor which went well with the tomatoes.  The Romano cheese added some richness and the pine nuts added a little crunch.
For our desserts, we split them.  We had a Turtle Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Pecan Caramel Sauce and Drunken Cherry Tiramisu with Brandied Cherries and an Espresso Lady Finger.  While I ate most of the Tiramisu, I think I may have liked the lava cake more.  It was a rich lava cake with the classic turtle flavors of chocolate, caramel, and pecan, and fresh fruit and very nice vanilla ice cream.  I am generally not a huge fan of vanilla ice cream, but this was creamy with a nice texture and a great vanilla flavor.  The standard Tiramisu has ladyfingers dipped in espresso and layered into an egg custard with cocoa.  With this tiramisu, it had the coffee dipped ladyfinger, and egg custard, but the custard was brandied cherry flavored and contained a lot of brandied cherries.  While it wasn't bad, it did have a boozy flavor.

After dinner here, I will say that our service was fantastic and the view was fantastic.  The food though, while really good, was nothing I haven't had at several other restaurants (that do not require a coat).  While I am glad that I had the opportunity to try it out, I would say that the atmosphere does not lead me to want to return.           

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