Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grace (2)

It's been awhile since I've visited  Grace. I was there shortly after it was opened. Since then, Grace has been named in multiple awards, including getting two Michelin stars. Hence, a revisit has to take place.

Amuse - Baby Banana, Green Apple Watermelon Radish with Jamon De Verde

We start off the night with a little amuse, the banana is coated with sugar, reminds me of a cream brulee, mildly sweet and appetizing. The Ham is a delicious buttery delicate. I couldn't taste the watermelon/green apple, but the ham itself is great so I didn't mind.

Amuse - Quinoa Chip, Dehydrated Date

The Quinoa chip is delicious with a little cheese flavor. The dehydrated date is like a candy, mildly sweet. All in all, the amuse are a great start to our night.

Atlantic Cod - Osetra Caviar, Lychee, Chive, Mushroom Vinaigrette, Yuzu 

For our first course, we're instructed to open up the lid and lick it. There's a little yuzu puree on the lid to lighten our pallet. The fish is nicely cooked and it's smooth, buttery and sweet. The caviar adds a little brininess to the dish. What's more is the broth that goes with this dish, it's earthly, flavorful and a little smokey. 

Alaskan King Crab - Kalamansi, Cucumber, Lemon Mint, Golden Roe, Thai Chili

For our second course, we are instructed to crack the coated sugar, which holds the roe and Thai chili, and eat it along with the king crab and cucumber juice beneath. The resulting mixture is a combination of alot of flavor. The crab is perfectly cooked and its sweetness is magnified by the refreshing cucumber juice. The combination of roes, chili and cucumber juice make this a nice, yet, refreshing bite.

6-Herb butter and Rosemary Bread

Our first round of bread is a rosemary bread and we were offered a herb butter. These two goes really well with together as they are both quite "herby".

Scallop - Tamarind, smoke, Flavors of Licorice, Coconut cream, "Scallop Chip"

The scallop is superbly cooked as it's sweet, light and flavorful. It goes well with the tamarind, which tastes like the licorice flavor (think black jelly beans). The licorice flavor is quite strong and not very attractive by itself. However, it goes well with the creamy coconut. The coconut is sweet, milky, creamy and carries a nice dose of coconut flavor. There's also a scallop chip, which is actually the skin of the scallop and it's quite tasty.

Fennel Seed French Rolls

Lamb - Artichoke, Smoked Paprika, Frisee, White Anchovy 

The lamb is juicy, flavorful and carries a bit of the gaminess from the lamb. The anchovy is a nice little addition it adds a little crunch and carries a bit of brininess. The artichoke is fun to eat as it's crunchy but not necessary for this dish. My only complain to this dish is that there's too much going on and my brain is getting confused by all the different element. 

Another bread we were offered

Sweetbreads - Ten Grains, Caperberry, Sage, Veal sauce

The sweet bread is smooth, flavorful and tender. I like the veal sauce here as it's a little hearty and goes really well with the grains. The fun part is all the crunchiness that comes with the grain combined with the mushiness of the sweetbreads turns into a hearty, flavorful, fun bite.

Miyazaki Beef - Romaine, Peanut, Vietnamese Herbs, Rice Puff, Tom Yum soup

There's two ways of eating the wagyu beef, pan seared and sashimi style. The wagyu sashimi is flavorful and buttery, which goes really well with the crunchy rice crispy. The pan seared wagyu beef is also flavorful and buttery, in more of a cooked beef way. The Tom Yum soup is actually all flavor and no heat, which I like as it can be very spicy. It's got a nice lemon grass kick to the soup, which provide a nice round up for this dish.  

Whole Wheat Waffle with Wagyu Beef Fat butter

Passionfruit - Pomelo, Prune, Lavender cake, Grapefruit, Cocoa Butter

Our first dessert course & pallet cleanser comes with alot of fruit. We were instructed to crack the sphere in the center to let the juice runs through the dish. The juice is actually a prune juice, which is quite citrusy and strong, but goes really well with the grapefruit. My favorite part is the combination of the juice, grapefruit and a bit of the cocoa butter. It's sweet, refreshing and light. 

Rhubarb - Red wine, Cream Cheese, Lemon Verbena, Lime Ice

Our second dessert course is a play of a deconstructed cheese cake. The lime ice is a bit refreshing, while the cream cheese ice cream and the lemon cake offers a nice textural bite. When everything is eaten together, it really reminds me of a nice cheese cake though it's a much lighter and "cleaner" version than the original.

Chocolate - Huckleberry, Whisky, Bergamot, Chocolate Cake, Sunflower Seeds

The Chocolate shell actually holds all the bourbon cream, which is smooth but quite strong. It reminds me of  whisky infused chocolate. The chocolate cake is light and dense, which goes well with the bourbon cream. I do like the chocolate as it's not too sweet.


A little sweets to end our dinner.

My trip this time to Grace is definitely interesting. Chef Curtis Duffy's dishes definitely has progressed. Dishes are more creative and, at times, aggressive. I do like alot of the flavor combination here, such as the Cod, King Crab, Sweetbread and the Beef. They're quite original and fun to eat. However, I have to say, at times, my pallet is being too worked up because there's too many component in each dish. It's fun to have so many different flavor, but at times, it overwhelms me. I would've preferred less components and just really focus on specific flavor. All in all, I enjoyed my visit and will look forward in coming back in the future.

Friday, May 16, 2014

42 Grams (2)

It's abnormal for me to return to the same restaurant in such a short time when it comes to pre-fixed menu. However, a friend of mine organized a dinner. So I decided to go again.

Since the first time I visited 42 Grams, there has been a few positive reviews. Hence, my return is totally justified (aside the fact that I really enjoyed the food last time).

Just a little background: 42 Grams was originally started as an underground dinner as Sous Rising with Jake Bickelhaupt after his time with Schwa and Alinea and Charlie Trotter.

Crispy Snacks - Vidalia Onion Parchment, Fish-n-Chips, Flax Crisp & Kale dust

We begin the night with a few crunchy snack. The onion chip is packed with the sweet onion flavor. The Fish-n-Chips is extraordinary as it brings in the nice salmon skin flavor, while the Flax Crisp brings in the simple nutty flavor. 

Juniper Jump - Hendricks Gin, Cucumber, Lime, Rosewater, Hibiscus, Orchid

One of my favorites from my last visit. The sweetness from the Hendrick's Gin cube, the floral Rosewater snow and the Lime cube turn this into a fine, sweet and floral "cocktail". In addition, the hibiscus flavor lingers after consumption, giving you a nice floral breath.

Soup - Osetra Caviar, Fingerling Potato, Tomato, Chips, Green Pea, Milk, Pollen

Another favorite from my last trip here. This "cheesy" potato soup delivers the creaminess and flavor that you would crave for more. The simple greens is a great addition to the soup as it balance out the saltiness from the soup. My favorite is the tomato chips, it's exquisitely flavorful and tasty while retaining a hint of tomato flavor.

Salad - Beetroot Macaroon, Shallot, Quail Yolk, Fromage Blanc, Lettuce & Herbs

The fromage cheese puree provides a nice "dressing" for the lettuce, along with the beet flavored Macaroon, turned this dish into a refreshing salad after the soup. The quail yolk is always fun to have as you can pop it in your mouth like a cherry tomato.

Coconut - Tom Yum, Lime, Cilantro

Another one of my favorite from my last trip. This deconstructed Coconut Tom Yum bite makes you think of a tom yum, with all the coconut flavor.

Flavors of the Sea - Scallop, Razor Clam, Shellfish Broth Foam, Phytoplankton, Trout Roe, Sea Grape, Oyster Leaf

This course is a tribute to Charlie Trotter. The scallop and Clam were both cooked perfectly. I especially liked the scallop as it exude the scallop's sweetness. The trout roe adds in a nice poppy crunch to the dish while the oyster leaf adds in the brininess. The combination of all of these ingredients turn this dish into a symphony of the sea.

Peekytoe Crab - Avocado, Tomatillo, Tequila, Jicama, Tostada, Osyter Blossom

The crab is sweet, tasty and quite "meaty" and meshed really well with the avocado. Yet, the broth is the essence of this dish. It's clean, flavorful and packed quite a punch. Maybe it's just me, but this dish reminds me of a really flavorful but clean fish taco, but far more tasty. 

Veal Sweetbread - Creme Fraiche Horseradish, Pomegranate, Oxalis, Dried Green Apple

The sweetbread is flavorful, tender and "buttery". I also tasted a hint of peanut in the sweetbread. The pomegranate and green apple provides a nice balance with the heaviness from the sweetbread.

4 ways Duck - Duck Breast, Duck Tongue, Crumble Duck Skin, Duck Juice, Umeboshi, Long Bean, Ash-Baked Eggplant, Red Shiso foam

I mentioned that I didn't enjoy the duck last time, however, the duck this time is perfectly cooked. Flavorful and succulent, the duck breast is cooked to perfection. I also enjoyed the duck skin powder as you can really taste the crispy skin while the duck tongue offers a nice crunchy bite. The bean is also quite flavorful along with the egg plant, which offers a nice contrast to the meaty and "heavier" duck.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras - Pear, Cipollini Onion, Daikon, Mustard, Blis Elixer

The seared foie is creamy, butter and flavorful. It's richness is nicely balanced by the pear puree and the cooked pear. The addition of onion adds in a mild sweetness, which elevate this dish to a creamy blitz.  

Tart - Rhubarb, White Chocolate, Cherry Chief Blossom

This is a fun little bite before our dessert. It pops in your mouth as a mildly sweet "cream" with clean rhubarb flavor. I especially like the white chocolate shell though, as it's not too sweet. 

Sweets - House-made Root Beer, Bourbon Maple, Galangal cake, Buble Gum Hyssop

Our dessert is a home made "root beer" float. The root beer "skin" offers a nice root beer flavor and meshed really well with the bourbon maple ice cream. The ice cream offers a nice maple syrup sweetness while not drowning out the root beer flavor. The Galangal cake is a bit gingery but mildly sweet, which goes well with the entire dish as it offers a substance to bite. I have to say, I do want another serving of this, or two.

Salty - Pecorino Cheese 3 ways - Crisp, Foam and Fondue

A nice little bite to wrap up the evening is a home made style "Cheetos". The crisp is made with the cheese eaten with cheesy foam and fondue. The saltiness and cheesiness from the crisp make this a nice little bite. 

Caffinee - Sparrow's 42 grams Blend, Cardamom cream

To wrap up our evening, we have a coffee moose made with Sparrow's coffee. It's airy, creamy but light. I like the hazelnut and cardamom spice as it gives off the nutty, earthy flavor.

During this visit of 42 grams, I can really taste Jake's improvement on all his dishes. His dishes are more refined while keeping the playfulness of the dishes. Also, the timing of dishes has also become better, at times I have to eat faster to accommodate picture taking and eating. I did worry before the dinner because there wasn't that much gap between my last dinner but I'm glad I did come back. I have to say, 42 Grams can marvel at the Chicago food scene, with ease.

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.