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Chicago trip report- Alinea, Boka, Publican, Aviary and Perennial Virant

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Spent last weekend in Chicago and wanted to leave a short report on our dining.

Perennial Virant- Saturday brunch- very solid brunch food paired with very friendly, accommodating service. I had the biscuits and gravy and the sticky bun (very good if one likes sweets with breakfast). I enjoyed the biscuits and gravy, but the gravy wasn’t the typical starch thickened gravy that is common. Thankfully it still tasted good, but was definitely different. Would return.

Boka- Saturday Dinner- ordered a standard 3 course a la carte with quail, venison and the white chocolate/raspberry dessert. Also tried a steelhead trout dish. All of the dishes were well prepared with the venison being perfectly cooked and very tender. Service was attentive and knowledgeable and we enjoyed the ambiance. Overall, however, on the Michelin scale this is a weak 1*. A very nice, capable restaurant that I’d recommend and return to, but not a 1* (especially compared to Euro 1*’s).

Aviary- Saturday night drinks- went here before dinner and had the Rob Roy, Boston Punch Club, The Spirit Advisor and the 2 in 1 (the names should be close). Really enjoyed them all as they were well balanced and served with an appropriate amount of theater. Service here was also very good with our server being very knowledgeable about wine/spirits which provided for great conversation. Not a cheap pre-dinner drink spot, but definitely recommend.

Publican- Sunday brunch- fun, boisterous environment for a Sunday brunch and I really enjoyed the red wine poached eggs and the “Orchard” cocktail. Service was surprisingly upbeat for an early weekend morning and we really enjoyed our visit.

Alinea- Sunday dinner- We really don’t need any more opinions on Alinea, but I’ll still share my thoughts. First visit and while clearly a very accomplished and all around great restaurant, the experience didn’t resonate with me. We had 18 courses and all were at least good. Highlights were the ever-present hot-potato-cold potato, black truffle explosion and a carrot/yogurt/honey dessert. Definitely beautiful presentations and service-pieces for the dishes were interesting and added to the experience. They were also very accommodating in putting together a vegetarian meal for my wife. Service was very good technically and most importantly they were able to tailor the style to fit the different tables. Our main server knew how to joke and converse casually while and demonstrating all of the needed knowledge and skill to provide service at this level. We didn’t go with the wine pairings which they suggested and not too firmly pushed. We ordered 3 half bottles off their list- Champagne, Condrieu, and red Burgundy and were pleased with this strategy as we got to enjoy wine that we really like while this combination was versatile enough to still make for decent pairings. I’d recommend the wine pairings based on much or little one knows about wine, but it really comes down to preference. Overall, as I already noted, Alinea is clearly a well thought out restaurant with some delicious food and I understand why it has garnered the praise and status it has, but for some reason that I’m still trying to understand, the experience was only good and not great for me. I attribute this mostly to my preferences as the restaurant did everything right and it’s definitely a place I’d recommend to everyone as it’s an experience worth trying at least once.

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to post your impressions. Very helpful.