Saturday, February 26, 2011


1800 N Lincoln,
Chicago, IL

Better Half and I felt like treating ourselves, so we figured we'd go out somewhere for Restaurant Week. We settled on Perennial, and then Better Half caught me completely off guard and suggested we simply order off the menu, rather than getting the prix fixe deal. In the end, he went a la carte and I went prix fixe. Of course, he turned out to be right. Because while the food was absolutely transcendental, my $33 dinner was comprised of such small portions that I wanted to cry. Next time, a la carte, for sure. It actually wouldn't have been that much more expensive, especially because there's no way I would have gotten dessert.

So, what we ate: I had the duck croquettes as an appetizer. They were blissful balls of crispy outside, fluffy, duck-y inside with a wonderfully subtle garlic aioli accompaniment. I could have eaten a basket of them, but unfortunately I only received 4. Better Half had the clam linguine, a bed of pasta with clams, lemon juice, white wine, red chili flakes and arugula. He was pleased with it. I tasted it and thought it was quite good, though the arugula made it taste a bit gray to me. Still, quite nice overall, and a very intelligently sized portion for a pasta course.

I then had the pork belly with braised red cabbage, mustard spaetzle, apple puree and apple gastrique. It was delicious. The apple puree was basically apple sauce, and the mustard spaetzle were perhaps a bit too mustardy - but I'm just not that into mustard anyhow. There was also something green on the plate, perhaps kale? Which was wonderful. The apple gastrique was a fabulous compliment to the pork belly, which was tender and moist (though perhaps just a smidgeon drier than ideal - but that I even noticed that is really only a sign of just how close to perfection it came, because it was actually fantastic) - it was just delicious.
Better Half, however, really hit the jackpot. He ordered the roasted chicken breast with fingerling potatoes, swiss chard, wild mushrooms and chicken au jus. This somewhat surprised me, because I generally figure that it's not worth ordering something so simple when there are more exciting options on offer. But oh. my. god. I had a few bites of his, and it was quite possibly the best piece of chicken I have ever had. It was moist, juicy, slightly crisp, and somehow intensely flavorful, despite being extremely simple. The mushrooms and swiss chard complimented it beautifully. It was divine. I actually mopped up every last bit of sauce with the complimentary baguettes (which I ate a lot of), to Better Half's chagrin.

My dessert, which I don't remember as clearly, was a hazelnut (I think?) cookie slab with a scoop of pistachio ice cream and a scoop of chocolate ganache. This did not seem very practical to me. Better Half explained that the point was to combine the three into one bite, and he quite enjoyed it. I think I'm picky about pistachio ice cream. I dunno. It was fine, I didn't dislike it, but really I just wanted to eat more of that chicken.

I'm a hopeless failure because I unfortunately can't remember the glass of red wine that we split, which is a great pity, because I loved it. I remember (enough to check the menu and reconstruct) that the glass of white we shared with the first courses was a Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viogner, which was very nice. I wish I could remember that red. I want to say it was the Zinfandel, but I'm honestly not sure.

Anyhow: the important thing to take away from all this is that the food was phenomenal. The room is nice but somewhat casual, in that hotel restaurant kind of way. The prices are steep, but the food, oh my, the food. Definitely worth a trip.