Thursday, April 10, 2014


Schwa is one of the restaurants in Chicago that I've wanted to go since I moved to Chicago. Helmed by Michael Carlson, Schwa has consistently been recognized for its creative and unconventional atmosphere. Schwa has also been known as one of the hardest restaurants to get in, as they only sit 26 people per night and they don't have a reservation system (they only take calls). Schwa is also know to have no boundary between the kitchen and the guests, chefs would come out to greet customer and bring out the dishes.

Movie Bites: (L-R) Sour Cherry Dots, Pizza Cotton Candy, Inside-out nacho, Popcorn Soda

To begin our meals, we are served with the amuse of movie bites. I started with the Sour Cherry Dots, which is essentially similar to a sour patch candy, a mix of sour and sweet. The Pizza Cotton Candy is actually my favorite, it's in the shape of cotton candy but tasted like a slice of pizza! The inside out nachos tasted exactly like nachos, except the cheese is encased in the shell. Last but not least, the popcorn Soda. It's definitely my least favorite thing out of these bites as it's tasted like a sour drink with no flavor it in.

Butternut & Squash - Candy Butternut, powder butternut, butternut Cantaloupe Gelee, butternut puree, curry cocoa nip, gooseberry

The next course has alot going on as there's alot of different puree of butternut squash.The many different components is fun to taste as they exude the sweetness from the squash, wrapping up with a little sweet cocoa nip and your pallet is cleansed with a sweet gooseberry. Quite a fun plate.

Quail Egg Ravioli - Parmesan & truffle

This is one of my favorite of the night and a stable of Schwa. A ravioli is served with Parmesan and truffle. It was creamy, buttery and earthy. The best part is the nice little pop you get from the quail egg when you eat the ravioli. This dish remind me a bit of the truffle explosion from Alinea

Chestnut Agnolotti - Shaved Chestnut, Chestnut Gastrique, Proscuitto, Persimmon Gelee

Another one of my favorites of the night. The nicely cooked pasta goes with a few shaved chestnut create an umami fusion of taste. The mild sweetness from the chestnut combined with a little butter really came through. The crispy prosciutto definitely added a nice little textural difference to the dish.

Carbonated Pears with Caviar, Basil Pudding, Olive Oil Powder, White Chocolate foam

True to Carlson's past, where he has worked at the Fat Duck, a carbonated Pear is served with different condiments. The pear is mildly sweet but has a really cool fizzle coming through it. Topped with a little caviar which gives the salty and briny flavor, this dish becomes a gastro fun plate of sweet, salty and fizzle. 

Tea and Trumpet - Poached Lobster, Earl Grey Tea Gel, Mushroom, Lavender bubble

A nicely butter poached lobster with trumpet mushroom. The lobster is nicely cooked, served with a bit of citrus and mushroom, which I like as it's relatively light.

Cuddle Fish - Apple Radish, Sunchoke-Lemongrass Panna Cotta, Parsley Cilantro and Oil, Apple Ice

The cuddle fish was marinated, frozen then shaved into pieces for this course. It really reminds me of a ceviche. The fish was served along with some apple ice, which was mildly sweet, but it covered up the fish flavor. However, the green juice that the fish was served is superbly refreshing. A little panna cotta was thrown into the dish, which was fun and added a nice little texture to the dish.

Thanksgiving Dinner - Sweetbreads, stuffing Puree, Foie Gras, Pomegranate Gelee, Aerated Potato, Mustard Green, Duck Skin, Pickle, Onion

A modern take of the thanksgiving dinner. The sweetbreads was tender and well seasoned. The puree was quite delicious, however, it's a bit on the saltier side. I do like the potato as it's quite fluffy and light. Along with the crispy duck skin, makes this a very hearty dish.

Antelope Trail Mix - Quinoa, Pistachio, Granola Foam, Cherry Puree

I have to say I have never had Antelope before and this is my first time. Our last savory course is a nicely cooked antelope topped with a trail mix of quinoa and pistachio, which is nice as it gives the nice little crunch. The antelope meat itself is quite interesting. It was quite soft, reminds me of a filet, but more squishy. The flavor is alot more mild compared to beef but it still carries a nice flavor.

Cheese Course - Chimay Cheese, Fermented Huckleberry, Corn Fennel Jello, Yeast Ice Cream

The cheese course is quite interesting as it reminds me of a cream brulee as there's a coat of sugar on the surface. The berry flavor mixed really well with the cheese as it's not very strong. 

Black Cow - Parsnip Ice Cream, Butterscotch Powder, Homemade Root beer

Our first dessert is a version of the black cow, with home made root beer and ice cream. We were instructed to roll the ice cream on a spoon then dump the ice cream into the root beer. It was definitely a delicious float. The root beer has less carbonation then the regular stuff but still carries the same nice flavor. It's actually does remind me more of a stout. Nevertheless, this is a nice bite.

Yellow Snow - Lemongrass, Coconut & Ginger Snow, Yellow Passion fruit Juice

First, we were instructed to put a crystal on our tongue, which numb our senses. Then we are to eat the yellow snow, which is a nice and fruity snow. The passion fruit really came through through the flavoring. However, it did overpower the snow's natural flavor. I do wish I can try the snow by itself first. 

Hot Cocoa

Our last course is a nice little warm cocoa bites. The bite was rich and creamy filled with warm chocolate inside. A good way to end the night.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Schwa quite a bit. A few of their dishes are quite original (such as their pizza cotton candy, the cuddle fish broth) and delicious (quail egg ravioli, chestnut Agnolotti). I like Carlson's take on the food, where he pushes the boundary but still able to make the food tastes good. Would I come back? It depends as it's quite difficult to get in (it only took me 1.5 years of randomly trying). But if a friend has an open seat, I would definitely go back.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Next Restaurant - Chicago Steak

I've been a Next follower since the day I moved to Chicago and I'm always excited about going there. For the first theme in 2014, Next chose Chicago Steak, to emulate the good old Chicago's meal courses during its industrial boom. 

Crudités - Kale, Dill Pollen, Baby Fennel

We started off the evening with a little veggie in preparation for our heavy meal. Each vegetable is chilled, drizzled with a little bit of seasoning and house made ranch, which wasn't as creamy as the regular ranch but has all the flavor. A pretty traditional way to start off the evening.

Shrimp Cocktail - Fermented Tomato, Horseradish, Yellow Celery

This is another pretty traditional dish in old time steak house. A shrimp cocktail dipped in a house made horseradish and fermented tomato sauce. The sauce has quite a pack of kick due to the fresh horseradish while the fermented tomato sauce bring in the tomato-y portion for the shrimp.

Surf Clam Siciliano - Saffron, Orange, Capellini

I have the Surf Clam with a little capellini as my third course. The chilled pasta is quite tasty and nicely seasoned. There's a mysterious thing that create a nice crunch (I think its some kind of bread crumbs). I actually expected a little clam here but I couldn't find it. Oh well.....

Levasseur Salad - Frog's Legs, Watercress, Pine Nuts

Another play-on with the traditional classic dish in old school steakhouse. A chilled butter poached frog leg which was fairly tender served with a vinaigrette dressed salad. I personally find the salad to be refreshing but it was a bit overdressed. I do like the crunchiness coming from the pine nuts. However, I wasn't a big fan of the frog legs. It just tasted a bit fishy for me.

Salmon Coulibiac - Duxelle, Fines Herbs, Brown Butter

This is one of my favorite dishes of the night and a play on with another traditional classic: Beef Wellington. Here, we have a King Salmon baked while wrapped around with a crust, encased with mushroom risotto. The fish is cooked perfectly. It's moist and flavorful, the crust is crumbly and the risotto gives off a nice earthy flavor. This is just a masterful way of making fish and I wished I can have more of it. 

Lobster Thermidor - Apple, Sherry, Thyme, Foccacia, Brioche Crouton

Another one of my favorites of the night. This lobster dish reminds me of a regular lobster tail combined with lobster bisque. A nicely cooked lobster is served with a base of creamy sauce. The sauce reminds me of a creamy bisque, which is combined with apple and a stringy crouton, creating a nice crunch and a lightness to counteract the heavy cream base.

As usual, Next team rolls out the main entree for us to see before serving it to us.

30 Day Dry-Aged Ribeyes

A nicely flavored Ribeyes. Tender and flavorful. It's hard to not like the meat.

Onion Paysan

This is a play of the onion gratin. A little cheese on top of all the grilled onion at the bottom. Creamy and cheesy.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

The brussel sprouts is nicely roasted to go along with the other greens. Making this a nice compliment to the steak.

Two-Jacket Potatoes

The star of this dish is supposed to be the meat, but this Potato definitely stole the show. The potato is cooked twice, which make its skin crunchy while the inside is creamy. Added in with a little bacon, this potato skin is probably one of the best potato skin I've had thus far. Its flavorful, crunchy and creamy, this is definitely a dream comes true for potato skin lover.

A compilation of all the food to go with the steak.

Champagne Float (Brioche ice cream)

A simple refresher after our heavy courses. A simple brioche ice cream with a little bubbly, making this a nice pallet cleanser. The ice cream itself tastes like butter and sugar. 

Cheese Cake Crème Brûlée 

A very traditional steak house dessert. The Crème brûlée has a smooth custard texture, while it's flavored like a cheese cake. A very traditional dessert.

Norwegian Omelette - Hazelnut, Cigar, Malt

This is definitely one of the most original, fun, yet dangerous dessert I've had thus far at Next. The outside is encased of meringue, which we set it on fire then blow out. Inside the meringue is a home make ice cream composed of hazelnut, malt and tobacco. When I say tobacco, it's really cigar. The ice cream flavor tasted a bit of hazelnut. The fun actually starts after you swallow the ice cream. The tobacco substance causes a tingly affect after the ice cream goes down, just like how your lips would feel when you have a cigar on your lips for awhile. The craziest part is, this ice cream totally wakes you up since there's nicotine in it. Me and my dining companion were wired after this dessert. 

Mint a la Fango - Chocolate Mint

This chocolate mint is very refreshing, I feel like I was eating a piece of mint. It's a good idea after the previous cigar course.

Black Peppercorn, Black Currant, Highland Scotch Whiskey

A nice berry tasting drink, which help to calms our nerve after such a heavy meal.

I actually had a bit of expectation before coming in to Chicago Steak as I want to see how Grant Achantz would be able to spin off on the old school theme. The food does taste good (the salmon, the lobster, the potato skin) and it brings in some really interesting and great dishes (the Norwegian Cigar). I did hear some negative feedback about this go around, as people do expects more when it's at Grant Achatz' level of cooking. However, to me personally, Chicago Steak captures the very essence of Next, where they go in with a theme and reinvent it with their technique. Regardless, I can't wait to visit when Next rolls out their new menu.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Feast & Imbibe

Underground dinner has been a stable in Chicago's dining scene and, alot of times, it's either you know it or you don't. I stumbled across Feast & Imbibe, which has been doing underground dinner since early 2013. Feast & Imbibe usually host in Evanston and when they announced that they'll pop up in downtown Chicago, I jumped onto it right away. Feast & Imbibe is helmed by Chef D'Andre Carter and his partner Heather Bublick, both Chicago native and Moto alum. Hence, I expect the meal to consist of some flare of Moto.

Shrimp & Grits - Spot Prawns, Corn, Housemade Bacon

I am actually a huge grits fan and this shrimp and grits does not disappoint. The creamy grits goes well along with the crunchy corn and nicely cooked prawns. The best part of this dish is actually the gravy as it's got a nice kick to it, mainly in the form of spice. The bacon added a little extra bite to this dish, giving it a more textural balance. 

Chicken Alfredo - Lemon, Perigord Truffle, Camembert, Chicken Crackling

One of my favorite of the night. This Chicken Alfredo has made all other chicken alfredo pale in comparison. A creamy alfredo sauce made with Camembert, along with crunchy and flavorful chicken crackling, has elevated the pasta. The mushroom also add a nice consistency to every bite. Lastly, there's a little shaved truffle, which gives off an earthly aroma to this dish. Imagine a creamy, yet a  little bit earthly in every bite of your pasta, that's what the end result of this dish. 

Beef & Broccoli - Short Rib, Black Garlic, Carrot, Tofu

Our last savory course is a playful version of Beef and Broccoli. The braised short rib was tender and flavorful. I like the carrot and ginger sauce as it adds a mild sweetness to the beef. The tofu is a nice addition to balance out the heaviness of the beef.

Pineapple - Lemongrass, Blueberries, Borage, Yuzu

Our first dessert is actually a cocktail presented with dry ice, which create a cool smoky effect. The cocktail is refreshingly sweet, with a nice citrus yuzu kick to it. The blueberries is nice as you get to munch on something while you drink the cocktail.

Cheese Cake - Strawberry, Cream Cheese, Graham

Another one of my favorite of the night, This is a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. The cream cheese moose is airy, creamy and mildly sweet. Along with the graham crackers and strawberry, this dessert reminds you of a nice strawberry cheesecake when you eat it all together, without the heaviness of the cheesecake. One of the diners actually recommended serving this for breakfast as it's very light.

Chocolate - Walnut, Salty Caramel

The Chef surprised us with a nice little parting gift of chocolate. It's mildly rich and has a nice crunch due to the walnut. I can do a few more of these.

I was thoroughly surprised of how the food came be, as I didn't have any expectation going in. The flavor, the texture and the simplicity of the food is well balanced. In contrast to what I thought it would be due to Chef Carter's association with Moto, the food is simple and focused on flavor, something that I appreciate. I do have one complain and that's the portion size, perhaps I'm a bigger eater than most, but I was left a bit hungry after dinner. But no matter. I can see great things going on with Chef Carter's underground dinner as he further fine tunes his food.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Goosefoot (2)

It's been a year since I've been to Goosefoot and I loved the meal so much that I have to go back to visit. Located in the charming Lincoln Square neighborhood, this restaurant is definitely a diamond there.

Amuse - Poached Beet with Goat Cheese
This perfect little amuse is the standard of Goosefoot. A small bite of beautiful beet and goat cheese make up for this sweet little bite.

Scallop/ Maitake/ Crab/ Lemongrass
A nicely seared scallop topped with a crunchy crab and Maitake mushroom "skin". The combination of soft and crunchy really appeal to me, and the combination of this create a savory and umami sensation. The lemongrass on the side acts as perfect close to this dish as it neutralize the heaviness.

Shrimp/ Preserved Garlic/ Rosemary/ Parmesan 
This is one of my favorite dishes of the night. The warm custard of garlic and rosemary topped with shrimp flakes. The custard is nicely flavored, smooth and totally warms you up. 

Chestnut Soup/ Alba Mushroom/ Potato/ White Truffle Essence
I had this dish last time and I remember how beautiful it is. The soup warms you up and gives you that homey feeling. It's savory and creamy, but feels very light. Add in the light, yet crunchy, vegetable into the soup makes this a dish to remember, especially in cold Chicago days.

Toothfish/ Espelette/ Crawfish/ Corlander
Toothfish is what we know as Chilean Seabass. The fish was nicely cooked and the espelette pepper gives it a nice mildly kick. The crawfish buttery sauce brings the dish together and the whole dish reminds me of cajun fish, but much more refined with a not too overpowering buttery sauce.

Duck Breast/ Cardamom/ Hubbard Squash/ Tapioca/ Acorn
This is my other favorite dish of the night. The juicy duck was perfectly cooked and topped with a little bit of cardamom and cumin, giving it a little "curry" spice. I've actually never had this combination before and I definitely like that little spike of spice in my duck breast. I like the little pickle on the side as it offsets the heaviness of the dish

Angus Beef/ Spice Beluga Lentils/ Cumin/ Compressed Apple
The nicely tenderloin is combined with the lentils sauce, creating a nice savoriness with it. The compressed apple definitely does its trick here as it's sweet, yet, the refreshing feelings from it makes this dish feels a lot lighter than what it actually is.

RoqueFort Cheese/ Goji Berry/ Hazelnut/ Pear/ Port
I usually cringe when the cheese course comes since I am not a fan of strong cheese. But this Roquefort cheese is mild, it does reminds me of blue cheese though. Paired with a nicely poached bear gives off a nice mild sweet flavor. It turns out the pear and cheese combination is pretty good as I gobbled down both my course with ease.

Yuzu /Pomegranate / Thyme
This refreshment is definitely an awesome juice. Light, cirtrusy and refreshing. I wish I can bottle this.  

Cinderella Pumpkin/ Turkish Coffee/ Persimmons/ Cassla
A nice mildly sweet, yet smooth, pumpkin moose encased with white chocolate shell. You just can't say no to it. You can really taste the pumpkin, yet, not too overwhelmed by it.

Chocolate/ Passion Fruit/ Coconut/ Ice wine
Also another repeat course (but a good repeat). This chocolate moose is mild, not too sweet, and retains its chocolate flavor. It's topped with a little mochi which adds a nice little chew to the dish. Along with the coconut cream, making this dish one of my favorite way to end my night.

Goosefoot Chocolate - toasted hazelnut
A little special treat with Chris Nugent's chocolate. They actually hand brushed everyone of these little guys. The chocolate is light but full of toasted hazelnut flavor. It looks and tastes good!

I am pretty satisfied with my revisit here and it's still one of my favorite restaurants in the city. The food is definitely refined and Chef Nugent has definitely kept his standards at Goosefoot. At times, I do wished there's a little more changes to the menu, nevertheless, I did greatly enjoy my dinner and will always look forwards to another visit.