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Aug 22, 2012 07:58 AM

Special Occation dinner - Chicago

We live in Chicago but are staying downtown for a few nights to celebrate a special milestone birthday. Normally we go to a trendy small plate type restaurant that are busy and loud, but has great food (think Purple big, Tavernita), but want more quiet and refinement.

We want this one to be in the fine dine class and know the names of such places but not really which one would be worth it. We are thinking maybe Sixteen, have ruled out Everest because its rather old and we want more the latest, greatest. Impressed by the view at Sixteen and the chef's pedigree as protege of Joel Robuchon.

Are we going down the right path? What would be worth it? don't want to do Alinea becuase we'd like to stay downtown and don't want to deal with the whole ticket thing)

If you've been to sixteen, is the one of tasting menus the way to go? Which one? How about the wine pairing?

As an aside, we are deciding on which luxury hotel to stay at - Trump, Waldolf Astoria?

Thanks for any insignts!

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  1. Sixteen is in a state of transition right now, having brought in Michael Lents and Patrick Fahy recently, but they have not yet revamped the menus to move the restaurant in line with their ambitions. They have said that great things will be coming with the new fall menus. You don't mention when you will be dining. If it's October or later, it's a great choice; until then, you won't be getting the full experience that will be coming.

    Joho at Everest continues to update his menus with contemporary techniques; it is not at all "old school". FWIW, Lents, at Sixteen, is considered a protege of Joho as well as Robuchon.

    Have you considered TRU? That would be the most obvious other choice, yet you haven't mentioned it. They continue to produce some of the finest and most interesting cuisine around. Naha is another possibility. Both TRU and Naha offer creative contemporary cuisine in an atmosphere of refinement.

    There are other choices away from downtown (e.g. Goosefoot) but you have stated you would like to keep it downtown.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      One other comment... different people mean different things when they speak of "refinement". Some people may prefer a restaurant with a more formal dress code, with jackets required for gentlemen. If this is what you're looking for, then the only such candidates are Alinea, Everest, Spiaggia, TRU, and Les Nomades. "Business casual" attire is acceptable at the others mentioned here, including Naha and Sixteen, although I've also seen a fair number of diners dressed up at both these places, even though it's not required.

    2. I would recommend Tru having not been to Sixteen.

      2 Replies
      1. re: HoosierFoodie

        I think Sixteen would fit your bill. Nsxtasy shared the official party line of where they are in transition. Friends who recently had the tasting menu (I'm not sure which one) absolutely loved it. This talent (including Will Douillet, who moved from Next/Alinea to lead the front of the house) would not put out products they are not proud of, even if they hope to evolve, as do all top professionals.

        Other places to consider would be Spiaggia (I found the service somewhat snooty and less than engaging although this is not a universal experience), which also has a strong chef pedigree and a gorgeous view, and the aforementioned Tru (haven't been since Tramonto left). Graham Elliot might give you the tasting menu elegance you desire with some modern whimsy, and again, I hear the new chef is knocking it out of the park.

        Haven't been to Waldorf since the ownership/name change, but Elysian was the Chicago favorite of a luxury travel expert friend. I don't know anyone who stayed at Trump. You might want to throw the Peninsula in the mix. If you want to go old school classic, there are the Ritz, Four Seasons, and Inter-Continental.

        Sounds like a wonderful staycation! Happy Birthday and Bon Appetit!

        1. re: GourmetWednesday

          Waldorf, former Elysian is two steps above Trump. My parents have stayed at both many times and my mom wants to take the Elysian home with her. Oh yeah, and to keep to topic, they have great little baked goods and coffee in the morning, not to mention Balsan's Sunday night dinner is great.

      2. We did stay at Trump and did dine at Sixteen and I wanted to share our experiences. The service was great at Sixteen but we weren't that impressed with the food or the wine pairings. The main course, which was fish, was slightly overcooked and the sauce the poured into it at the table was lukewarm. Everything was just OK, but the view and the service were just excellent. Service was also good at Trump, but the person who answers the phone when you call was not a native English speaker and I found it difficult to understand her and be understood. All and all Trump was a good experience in many ways, but not the over the top special experience for which we had hoped. If anyone reads this, who is looking for that special experience, I would not recommend either of these places. We also dined at number of more casual places, so I'll comment on those. Purple pig, as always was excellent. We'd never tried Tavernita and it was great - service, food, ambiance, the whole package like the Purple pig. We weren't so impressed with GT Fish and Oyster, which was just OK with food and service. We tried Fronterra grill for lunch and everything we ate was dried out and lukewarm (except the meat itself) - the server said that was how Rick likes to service it but I think he did not mean that dry or that old (we ate at 2 p.m.). That said, our margaritas were excellent and most of the service was very good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefcoo

          Thanks for the report. We prefer to stay at the Hotel Palomar and drink cocktails and nosh at their restaurant, Sable, if you return to Chicago some time soon. The customer service both at Sable and in the hotel is wonderful.

          1. re: chefcoo

            Yes, thanks for the report. Even when things aren't perfect, the information is helpful.

            We'll hope that Sixteen improves as Lents and Fahy both take charge, and hopefully things get straightened out. (Your experience sounds a lot like my impressions when I ate dinner there under the previous chef, Frank Brunacci.)