It’s Chicago Restaurant Week! Chicago Restaurant Week is actually almost two weeks (January 25 – February 4). It’s a great way to try out some new restaurants and at each restaurant, try a few more dishes than you might normally order a la carte. The restaurants usually have a $22 fixed menu for lunch, and a $33 or $44 fixed menu for dinner. After much analysis on what fixed menus were actually deals (surprisingly, for a lot of them, you just break even or even worse, lose money), I settled on a few spots:
For lunch on Monday, I headed into Embeya which is located in the West Loop. I really need to try more of the restaurants here! No trouble at all getting a table during lunch time, and it seemed like a nice place to have a business lunch.
For the first course, I chose the grilled beef jerky with red curry squash and pickled golden raisins. Grilled beef jerky apparently just means strips of steak, but that’s fine by me. I ate the entire thing, golden raisins and all, and it was delicious – my only complaint is that it was a little too sweet.
For the second course, I ordered the chicken thigh with market beans, XO, and green olives. Yummy! This was also pretty soy sauce sweet like the beef jerky, but less so, which was good. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and I liked the XO even though after looking it up, I’m still not sure what it is.
The dessert was a cacao nib brownie with hazelnut meringue, pickled beets, and smoked chocolate ice cream. The pickled beets on top were weird – I took them off. Everything else was your standard delicious dessert.
According to Embeya’s website, this lunch was worth $9 (beef jerky) + $15 (chicken thigh) + probably $7 (dessert) = $31, so not bad! After I ate here, I saw it on Thrillist’s list of Best Restaurants in Chicago Right Now, which made me proud of myself for picking it. If you know me, you know I love lists. Anyway, also on the list was…
I made a reservation for me and my friend Tom for Tuesday night at Intro in the Belden Stratford hotel in Lincoln Park. The Tuesday night reservation was literally the only time available during restaurant week, so I jumped on it.
For the first course, I chose the Vietnamese Chicken Soup with lemongrass, ginger, and shaved vegetables. It was okay… nothing special. When I thought Vietnamese, I thought of pho, but it didn’t have the same taste and both the soup and chicken were pretty bland.
When the plate for my main course was set in front of me, I immediately thought, “Aw, crap.” I sent this picture to my friends and one said, “Those look like some nice snacks.” This was billed as Flat Iron Steak or “Beef and Broccoli,” which I suppose it was, but it was pretty misleading as their website has a picture of a similar steak of a much more substantial size. Nothing special to this steak either.
For the dessert, I chose the Hazelnut Cake which was perfectly fine.
This meal was worth $8.95 (soup) + $29.95 (steak) + probably $7-ish (dessert) = $45.90, and this was one of the $44 dinners, so this was not a good deal at all. We should’ve ordered from the restaurant menu for one person, and then ordered a la carte for the other person, like our waiter suggested. But, at least I can say that I’ve been to the place, right?
Tom and I also made reservations for Bistronomic, near the Water Tower, for lunch on Saturday. Bistronomic is one of the only restaurants with a totally separate menu for restaurant week – each of the choices on the fixed menu was a recipe from Julia Child’s famous recipe book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
My pick for the appetizers were the PEI Black Mussels Marinieres with scallions, thyme, and chardonnay. I was pleasantly surprised at how many mussels there were – I think at least 20. They were good and weren’t gritty at all.
Next was the beef bourguignon with bacon lardons, handmade linguini pasta, and beaujolais wine reduction. I was skeptical when I saw it, but it was delicious.
For dessert I had a caramel almond souffle. I don’t think I could have eaten any more than they gave – it had a weird consistency that made it unappetizing. I had a bite of Tom’s clafouti aux piores, which was terrible. It tasted like nothing.
Since this was a special menu, I’m not sure how much it was worth, but I felt like it was a good deal. The only bad thing was that I was still pretty hungry after the meal! Might have something to do with not eating anything for breakfast before, though.