Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Fine Dining’

Smyth Chicago

Posted 25 Mar 2017 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service

Tonight I visit Smyth in Chicago with wonderful anticipation after reflecting on how our stories converge. Back in the 1990’s and 2000’s when I wanted a great meal in Chicago I would visit Charlie Trotters and it was there that I first saw Karen Urie (now Shields) at work.  Charlie introduced Karen as she passed me in the kitchen while I was hovering after an incredible meal. Karen prospered at Trotters prior to moving on with her (now) husband John Shields and this speaks to her strength and character. When I heard that Karen and John Shields opened Smyth in Chicago it warmed my heart – a culinary duo with a fantastic lineage paying it forward and inspiring a new generation of cooks and chefs. I placed Smyth on the top of my list for my next visit to Chicago.

Unfortunately I had a very limited window of time to visit Smyth – it had to be upon arrival to Chicago. My flight in was delayed but I was able to make my reservation – bouncing up the stairs to the door to Smyth right on schedule. One foot in the door and I am warmly greeted: “you must be Mr. Griffin – welcome, thank you for joining us tonight.” I love it when the FOH crew is ready and organized. Though dining alone isn’t always my preference, the team at Smyth placed me at a fantastic table within easy view of the pass and kitchen. It took all of five minutes to relax, order a Manhattan (with Rye) and start my journey.

When I benchmark a great restaurant my goal is always to observe the details and to take what I learn back to my students. It is a challenge to remain fresh and current in a complex and constantly changing industry but evenings like the one I experienced at Smyth keep me inspired. Words fall short in expressing the warmth and hospitality that flows at Smyth. Their come-as-you-are philosophy, and casual but elegant dining room aesthetic rains with relaxation. You won’t find white linen or stuffy servers here but you will find gorgeous walnut tables, classic Hans Wegner Kennedy chairs, and curated tableware. This is dining built on years of experience, mastery, and complexity rendered with integrity and purity. Congratulations Karen and John – thank you for a wonderful evening and for the inspiration. Best and blessings to you and your team.

Maitake, Spruce, and Sassafras Tea

Salted & Frozen Radish, Oyster, and Seaweed

Dungeness Crab & Foie Gras with Scrambled Kani Miso

Shima Aji Seasoned With Its Fish Sauce and Spicy Plants

Shima Aji Ribs, Barbequed Over the Hearth

Uni Taco

Caramelized Potato & Sunchoke with Dried Scallop and Trout

Dried Corn Tartlet with Squab Liver Mousse

Roast Squab, Black Walnuts, Grains, and Apple

Brioche Doughnut with Aged Beef Au Jus, Ribeye of Beef, Wasabi, and Brussels Sprouts

Pickled Onions with Lamb, Black Allium, and Black Truffle

Milk Chocolate, Huckleberry, and Preserved Shiitake Mushroom

Egg Yolk Soaked in Salted Licorice with Frozen Yogurt Meringue

Carrot Sorbet, Pine Pollen, Honey, and Sour Quince Curd

Lovage Stem and Carrots Coaxed into Licorice

Smyth Restaurant

177 N Ada St #101,

Chicago, IL 60607


Alinea 2.0

Posted 17 Aug 2016 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends, Warms My Heart

Every so often I enjoy an evening of dining that stays with me and this was one of those nights. The recipe for this is always the same: an incredible restaurant, great guests, incredible service, and fantastic food. Our plan was hatched while visiting Vevey, Switzerland earlier this summer. My friend Rochelle Schaetzl of Nestle Professional told me she dreamed of dining at Alinea and that she would be back in the U.S.A. in August – this is all I needed to know! I quickly organized a table for four in The Gallery at Alinea for August and we invited her colleague Alec and Chef Charles Carroll to join us – a well curated group of expert food lovers.

Simon Davies, CDC, Alinea demonstrating The Imperial Shaker (second course)

Though I have dined at Alinea in the past this is the first visit since the restaurant was completely renovated and the first visit for Charles, Alec, and Rochelle. Part of the joy was watching members of my group work their way through the incredible and unpredictable dining experience at Alinea with pure joy and anticipation. From the moment we entered the restaurant to our final crossing of the threshold to the curb the experience was absolutely incredible. When you enter The Gallery at Alinea all the hype and commentary about the restaurant fades and full immersion takes over. To be sure, this is more than a dinner – it’s a multi-sensory event of incredible thought, hard work, craftsmanship, and care. No question the food is mind blowing but it’s equally important to note how stellar the FOH team is. Every member of the service staff knows every course (both wine and food) in intricate detail along with the choreography that goes along with each course. Precision is an understatement. Kudos!

There’s nothing like it in the world and words can’t express how incredible an experience in this space is. I hesitate even attempting to describe it out of pure respect for the restaurant and for Chef Grant Achatz and his team – my narrative will only fall short. Instead – I share images and clips of the experience below with the deepest of respect and awe for Chef Grant Achatz, CDC Simon Davies, and the entire Alinea team.

Truffle - King Crab - Osetra Caviar - Herbs with Pickled Shallot - Egg

Communal: Truffle – King Crab – Osetra Caviar – Herbs with Pickled Shallot – Egg

Gin Cocktail, Green Tomato, Chartreuse - Cucumber, Feta, Caper Leaf

Shaker/Roll: Gin Cocktail, Green Tomato, Chartreuse – Cucumber, Feta, Caper Leaf

Scallop with Corn Consommé - Shio Kombu, Nori

Crunch/Paper: Scallop with Corn Consommé – Shio Kombu, Nori

Tomato, Watermelon, Parmesan, - White Asparagus, Lychee, Lily Bulb - Apple, Apple, Yuzu, Lemon Verbena

Contrast/Sparrow-Grass, Swirl: Tomato, Watermelon, Parmesan, – White Asparagus, Lychee, Lily Bulb – Apple, Apple, Yuzu, Lemon Verbena

Icefish, Daisy Mandarin, Radish

Fry: Icefish, Daisy Mandarin, Radish

Pork Belly, Curry, Banana

Yellow: Pork Belly, Curry, Banana

Morel, blueberry, Lapsang Souchong

Glass: Morel, blueberry, Lapsang Souchong

Onion, Purple Allium, Black Pepper

Petal: Onion, Purple Allium, Black Pepper

Gruyere, Black Truffle, Pumpernickel

Toast: Gruyere, Black Truffle, Pumpernickel

Chicken, Palo Santo, Pineapple, Mezcal – Mango, Almond, Cinnamon

Smoke/Bon Bon: Chicken, Palo Santo, Pineapple, Mezcal – Mango, Almond, Cinnamon

Wagyu, Rice, Myoga

Bone: Wagyu, Rice, Myoga

Veal Cheek, Chamomile, Melon

Cloche: Veal Cheek, Chamomile, Melon

Fennel, Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Strawberry

Nostalgia: Fennel, Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Strawberry

Edible Baloon (taffy)

Edible Balloon – Taffy

Cherry, White Chocolate, Bourbon

Paint: Cherry, White Chocolate, Bourbon

Sesame, Brown Butter, Feuilletine

Gold: Sesame, Brown Butter, Feuilletine


Alinea Restaurant

1723 N Halsted St,

Chicago, IL 60614