I love Chicago Restaurant Week. You can always find me – several weeks ahead of time –browsing participating restaurants and their featured menus, trying to decide what reservations to make. With over 200 restaurants in the city and surrounding suburbs participating this year, choosing one (or two…or three…) isn’t an easy task, but it’s undoubtedly a great way to experience an excellent meal at some of Chicago’s best restaurants at a reduced price.
The first stop on my self-proclaimed “Restaurant Week Tour 2011” was Perennial in Lincoln Park, a beautiful spot owned by Boka Restaurant Group (the folks behind Girl and the Goat, Boka and others). The atmosphere is a perfect balance of fine dining and playfulness. The birch trees in the center and overall décor evoke a beautiful, tree house-like feel, and the patrons – who are equally beautiful – are clearly enjoying themselves.
Now, onto the food. My husband and I each ordered a different item off of the $33 prix fixe Restaurant Week menu so we could try a variety of things. We also ordered drinks and an additional item off the regular menu (I’ve marked the non-Restaurant Week items with an asterisk). Here’s what we enjoyed:
- ‘08 Furque Malbec from Argentenia*
- Blood & Smoke – Glenmorangie “The Original” scotch, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, Aranciata, Laphroaig 10 year rinse*
- Duck confit croquettes, garlic aioli, thyme
- Sweet potato soup, honey, smoked chilies, Perennial trail mix
- “Fish tacos,” market fresh crudo, mango papaya salsa, avocado, corn tortilla purée*
- Grilled Berkshire pork belly, braised red cabbage, mustard spaetzle, apple puree, apple gastrique
- Nantucket scallops, Thumbelina carrots, turnips, spinach, smoked pearl onions, sweet onion broth (note: the Restaurant Week menu actually features cod, but it was scallops on the day I dined)
- Cheese cake, raspberry custard, cream cheese foam, graham cracker ice cream
- Hazelnut crunch, crispy hazelnut bar, milk chocolate, crème fraiche, chocolate caramel
He and I both agreed that the standouts were the Blood & Smoke, the Sweet Potato Soup and the Fish Tacos, followed closely by the Pork Belly and the Hazelnut Crunch. Everything was beautifully presented, but I was slightly disappointed by the Scallops, which were somewhat bland and nothing to write home about.
As for the service, I’m not sure if our late reservation was to blame, but overall it was just OK. We were thanked for our patience after waiting a while for our main course, and after that we were basically forgotten about until it was time to bring the bill. However, the wait staff was very friendly and energetic considering how late it was.
Overall, I enjoyed Perennial and would go back for drinks and appetizers (especially the Blood & Smoke, which was one of the most interesting cocktails I’ve ever tried, and the Fish Tacos, which were delicious and unique), but was slightly underwhelmed by the overall experience.
Check back next week for my Restaurant Week review of The Drawing Room.