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Thoughts on Sixteen and other trip questions

Hello all,
I'll be heading down to Chicago at the end of August with my dad in what has become an annual tradition of Epicureanistic exploration. We will be going for three nights (Thur night - Sunday day), and I have a few questions on restaurant choices. Below is a list of places we've been to in the past:
Avec
Blackbird
Publican
Avenues (RIP)
Alinea
L2O (under Gras, Tatami Room)
Topolobampo/Frontera/Xoco
Burt's Place
Schwa
Perennial (the original)
Tru
Longman and Eagle (lunch)
Sunda

There might have been more, but that's what comes off the top of my head at the moment. Anyway, for the upcoming trip, the only thing we have set in stone is Vie on Thursday night. We are on the waiting list for El Ideas for both Friday and Saturday (not holding my breath), and I'll be calling Schwa this week for reservations since it was my dad and I's number one place we want to return to. Any recommendations for night three if El Ideas doesn't pan out? Because of the recent review, I've considered making Sixteen one of the nights, but has anyone personally been there to experience it under this new chef? I've also been hearing a lot about Acadia, but, like Sixteen, only very recently. Any experiences here worth noting? Other considerations were to Moto, Les Nomades, Graham Elliot, or even L2O (this time in the normal dining room). Any recommendations or experiences from Acadia and/or the new Sixteen, or a place I'm overlooking? Thanks for any and all help!

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    1. re: kathryn

      Goosefoot is unfortunately already booked up through the dates I'll be there. And thanks for the thread link! Read through the online review of Sixteen, but was wondering if anyone has an experience they'd like to share about it under this new chef's reign.

      1. re: Ausconsin

        There's more news about Sixteen today, and it's great news indeed:

        Patrick Fahy joins Sixteen as executive pastry chef - www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/...

        1. re: nsxtasy

          They're not just trying to get their star back, they are shooting for two!

          1. re: Gonzo70

            Indeed!

            Fahy has been there for a week now. I was chatting with him at an event last night, and I asked when he and Lents will have made the changes to offer the new "Sixteen experience", and he said they would be doing a complete menu makeover for fall (no specific date available yet).

            1. re: nsxtasy

              So based on what we've read and heard, we're holding off on Sixteen until this new fall makeover! I'm sure it's an excellent place in its current form, but we'd much rather see it in its prime. So, instead, we are going to Acadia on Saturday and having Yusho as a backup for Schwa on Friday.

              Phew...I think the schedule is finally set. For now.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I ate at Sixteen this past Saturday night. I posted a detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/873531#7713575

      2. I pimp Acadia a lot, and not because it is in my hood. You have likely only been hearing things recently because it has only been open for a hot min. The food and service are wonderful.

        1. Thanks for the help everyone! Going to do Vie, Schwa (Acadia as backup), and Sixteen as our dinners. Lunch/brunch is still to be decided, but Publican Quality Meats, Big Jones, Nightwood, Frontera, and Owen and Engine are all in the mix.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Ausconsin

            Don't forget that Frontera brunch is only Saturdays.

            If you're a brunch person, look into Jam, which is more of a chef-driven brunch restaurant.

            Big Jones is great. And they take brunch/lunch reservations. We were there yesterday, loved the pork shoulder, shrimp burger, pickle plate, meat plate, cornbread.

            1. re: Ausconsin

              If your brunch is on Sunday, beware, as Sunday brunch can be packed at a lot of places, particularly those that don't take reservations. Big Jones and Nightwood both accept reservations for Sunday brunch (including on Opentable.com); I've been to both for brunch and liked them.

              As kathryn notes, Frontera's brunch is only Saturdays; they are closed Sundays and Mondays. Last time I was intending to go to Frontera Grill for brunch on a Saturday, I phoned ahead and found out the wait to be seated was 90 minutes. We instead went to Mundial Cocina Mestiza, and it was outstanding. (Mundial accepts reservations including Opentable, too, although they don't get slammed so you might not need one. But it never hurts to call ahead, no matter where you're headed!)

              Please let us know how your meals go. I'm particularly interested in hearing about Sixteen!

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Thanks nsxtasy! I think we're going to do Big Jones on Sunday because of the reservations and it's a good stop to hit as we make our way north back home. The last time I ate at Frontera for brunch, I was able to call weeks in advance to make reservations, so I think I might get on that soon. If that doesn't work, I also had Slurping Turtle on my list for Saturday.
                And I'm so excited for Sixteen, especially after the new additions in the pastry department.

              2. re: Ausconsin

                Consider Saturday brunch at Perennial Virant and a stroll across the street through our wonderful Green City Market ...it makes for a lovely morning. I've been loving Virant's food these days - so fresh with superb flavors.

              3. Hey all,
                So, I am uploading this from the Windy City, and let me tell you, our trip is off to a great start. I'll try and upload impressions as quickly as possible so as to avoid my own procrastination tendencies. First up, I present to you Vie:

                Amuse: Fried matsutake mushroom with beet

                Prairie Fruits farm ricotta and spigarello gnocchi, sherry glazed peppers, wood-grilled fennel, cilantro
                o A great opening course and reflective of what Vie does great: Distinctive, collaborative flavors heavy on the sour/salty combo. The list of ingredients for each dish can be overwhelming, yet each bite tastes well thought out and clear. Take our opening dish of perfectly light ricotta gnocchi, dyed green with spigarello (a leafy green not too much unline broccoli rabe). As great as these were, the accompaniments of the sweet and slightly spicy peppers and fennel reminded me of a sort of saccharine giardiniera. Then came the cilantro, seemingly out of nowhere, yet sneaking in when you least expect it and offered a refreshingly clear flavor that cut through it all. Everything had a purpose, everything in its right place.

                Nathan’s charcuterie plate: pork pate, crispy blood sausage, goose breast pastrami and coppa, local greens with mustard vinaigrette, house made pickled green beans, blackberry compote
                o Wow! This was a hefty portion even considering we split it! But I certainly was not complaining. Favorite thing on the plate was the goose breast pastrami, which was very lean yet tender, and offered a hint of game flavor. The blood sausage was also excellent and appeared to have been stuffed with pinenuts, which offered a great textural contrast. The surprise of the dish: The pickled green beans. I knew Chef Virant was into pickling before dining here, but boy does that man know how to pickle. Not lip puckeringly acidic like some homemade pickles can be, but it definitely offered a nice refreshing crunch amidst a sea of heavy cured meats.

                Gunthorp farm rabbit ballotine, caponata, buttered fingerlings, mustard pickled local cauliflower, roasted rabbit jus, basil
                o This was my dish, and I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but I really loved the interplay between the sour and savory. The ballotine was a rabbit sausage, stuffed in a rabbit loin, all wrapped up in a blanket of rabbit bacon. Delicious, flavorful, coarse ground rabbit sausage made this ballotine stand out. What made the dish, however, were the other members of the band. On bass, you had the buttered fingerlings. Though they offered the least in terms of overall flavor, they served to absorb on many of the accompany flavors, and helped to temper the stronger elements on the place. Enter: The pickled local cauliflower on guitar and rabbit jus on drums. The way that Chef Vierant can pickle a vegetable and have it remain crisp and crunchy in texture is beyond me, but these were again excellent.

                Local pork combination (pork sausage and porchetta), buttered corn, roasted sauerkraut, toasted bread puree, sherry vinegar glazed summer apples, roasted pork jus
                o This was my dad’s choice, and would have been mine, too, if not for the appearance of rabbit on the menu (which is not too easy to find in my neck of the woods). A homemade pork sausage and thin slices of fatty porchetta rested amidst the sea of accompanying flavors, whose profiles closely match with my rabbit dish. Though I didn’t try any of this dish, the empty plate told me it wasn’t too bad.

                Zingerman’s Creamery gooey buttercake, snicker doodle cookie apple compote, caramel, brown sugar granola, seedling hard cider sorbet
                o My dessert. I’d read about this dish many times on various blogs and forums, and knew I was getting it weeks before I ate here. Needless to say, “gooey” does not begin to describe the buttercake. Not a dry crumb on the plate, with the sweet taste of butter in every bite. This went brilliantly with the apple compote, whose warm flavors matched well with the heavy cake. The hard cider sorbet sort of grew on me. I admit that, at first, I found it a bit too tart. But interestingly, as it began to melt and mix around a bit with the caramel and soak into the cake, I found it much more complimenting and toned down in a good way. Who knows, maybe I’m more of an ice cream person. Either way, an excellent dish, and a great dish.

                Peach semifreddo, red raspberry torta, grilled peaches, toasted pistachios
                o My dad’s dessert. He is much more of a fruity sweets guy compared to my rich desserts preference. Again, I did not try this dish (I’m starting to sense a trend here…), but again, all signs pointed to this being a perfect ending to his meal.

                Overall, Vie surprised me. I don’t know why it should have, seeing as it garnered a Michelin Star two years running, and has been going strong six years before that (note: Just by chance, we dined there on their 8th anniversary). But I always thought, “Well, how good could it really be, way out there in the suburbs?” Turns out, very good. Vie is an ode to Midwestern ingredients in a refined setting, for sure. But it is doing something with flavor combinations and tickling neglected flavor sensations that are rarely touched by other chefs. The bitter, the acidic, and sour – all paired perfectly with their respective savory or sweet counterparts. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Vie thinks so, too.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ausconsin

                  Thanks for the great report. Keep 'em coming! :)

                  1. re: Ausconsin

                    Great report. I probably shouldn't be reading this food smut before lunchtime. ;)

                  2. Lunch: Publican Quality Meats

                    Weihenstephaner Lager
                    o Great crisp summer beer, which was pleasantly unexpected from the lagers I’ve had before. Paired very well with the rest of our meal.

                    Butcher’s Cold Charcuterie Plate: Duck and pork rillettes, spicy bresaola, and smoked foie pate
                    o Was trying to decide between the 3 and 5 piece plate. By the size of the serving board and portions, we were glad we went with 3. By the time we got around to tasting it, I wish we would have ordered 5. My favorite was the duck and pork rillettes topped with blackberry compote. It was rich and ducky, with the pork adding a nice bit of deep porcine flavors throughout. The bresaola was also very good, though we did not find it the least bit spicy. The smoked foie pate was deliciously smoky and paired well with the whole grain mustard and pickled peppers. I tried to compare Publican’s charcuterie with Vie’s, but seeing how we had different items on the plates, I didn’t find the comparison to be on a solid comparison. I will say, however, that the rillettes from Publican and goose breast pastrami from Vie are some of the favorite bites from the trip.

                    Pork Belly Sandwich with romesco verde, watercress, summer apple, mint, and yogurt on cibatta. Side of marinated kale with pecorino
                    o Come on, this isn’t even fair. What’s not to love? Two thick slices of crispy pork belly that were not dry! (which I tend to find in some pork belly sandwiches). The romesco verde is a spicy green pepper sauce, which, along with the rest of the ingredients, offered cool, sharp contrasts to the pork belly. The marinated kale was also excellent. Not marinated into mush, but still crisp and had a nice bitter note.

                    Muffaletta with albacore tuna, aioli, giardiniera, and cabbage on focaccia. Side of bean salad
                    o Didn’t get to snag a bite of this, so take that for what it’s worth! I loved how it was cut pizza slice-style from a larger sandwich. Again, the sandwich was huge – much bigger than I was expecting!

                    Kahan’s restaurant empire has never failed to impress me, and he has another hit with PQM. The deli counters and freezers are jam packed with meats of all sorts – cured, aged, whole, cuts, dried, frozen, fresh. Though definitely a specialty shop, I could see myself spending way too much money in here way too quickly. Above all that, however, the food is awesome. Great products, great execution, and the service was very attentive and friendly especially given the busy lunch rush. Go here. Get the pork belly sandwich before it’s gone. And maybe take some rillettes to go. Oh, and go downstairs and check out the bathroom. You get an open view into the butchering area and the aging room. If seeing animal carcasses freaks you out, maybe go beforehand.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ausconsin

                      Thanks for another nice report. Glad the trip is off to a great start.