North Pond - exquisite
Hounds are due thanks for pointing me towards North Pond. I am guessing it is one of those places you don't go often because it is expensive and has been around a while, so it doesn't get many mentions on this board. Well, in case any of you were thinking of going and were wondering if it is still good, the answer is GO. It is GREAT.
For others from out-of-town or even locals who don't know the area, finding the place is a bit of a pain. The website says it is on North Cannon Drive. That may be the nearest road, but the restaurant is not actually on that street or any other street. It is in Lincoln Park and to get to the restaurant, you actually want to drive to the corner of Deming and Lake View, where there is valet parking. From there, it is a short walk on a paved path to the restaurant, which actually does sit on a pond. It was built in 1912 as a warming shed for skaters on the winter ice. It later became a storage facility for the Chicago Park District, and then a concession stand. The current building was designed by Nancy Warren in the Arts-and-Crafts style and it is lovely and comfortable. It looks and feels as though it is vintage, when in fact it was built in 1998.
The food is just incredible. It is actually seasonal, a word that is abused in most restaurants (serving apple crisp in July and raspberry tart in December). Not here. You really are getting choices of items that are currently in season.
We started with an amuse bouche which was heavenly. It was a chilled melon soup with tiny bits of seafood and crunchy little croutons. The bread was better-than-ordinary, though not great, and the butter was soft enough to spread. My husband and I shared the greens, carrots salad: Baby Lettuce Head, Tendrils; Minted Goat Cheese, Honey Toasted Brioche, Cucumber, Radish, Baby Carrots, Pine Nuts. It was beautifully arranged on the plate, an ample size for sharing, and absolutely fresh and delicious. The flavors worked well together. I went on to the red snapper which was of a fantastic quality and perfectly cooked. I can't recall the ingredients but remember wanting more even after it was gone, which is rare with me. I'm usually bored after three bites. My husband had the Duck, Peach:
Pan-Browned Duck Breast, Smoked Duck Meat, Charred Peaches and Compote, Baby Leek, Rainbow Chard, Hazelnut Streusel. It was absolutely delectable.
Service was perfect. No one ever intruded on our conversation and no one ever asked us a question when we had our mouths full of food. Yet they were always there when we needed them.
Dessert was not successful. We had Peach, Blackberry: Golden Peach Mascarpone Feuilletée, Michigan Blackberries, Nasturtium Ice Cream, Oatmeal Streusel, Thyme. The oatmeal streusel was dry and crumbly, almost gritty in the mouth. The ice cream was funky and nasty. The overall impression was muddy and unpleasant flavors and textures. Very disappointing and surprising. It went mostly uneaten after the first two tastes.
Overall an extremely satisfying and exquisite meal except for the final course.