Blackbird — Chicago (10/2015)

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Blackbird has been around for a while and garnered many awards.  It is a Michelin one-star restaurant. While not a very big restaurant, I was able easily to secure a reservation for a Thursday night seat.

The restaurant has the tables fairly close together, so the place is pretty lively during peak dinner time.  They serve a tasting menu, as well as a la carte.  It was interesting that they didn’t ask me if I had any allergies.  I went with the tasting menu and a glass of the Chablis.

They start you right off with a selection of warm bread and dill butter.

The amuse bouche platter presented (from the left going clockwise) dusted sunchokes with aioli and sorrel, dried kale with yogurt and plum purée, and baby carrot with licorice crème fraiche and dried scallop.  The best was the kale, which was surprisingly light with a soft crunch.  The sunchokes were warm and tasty, with a soft texture.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo — Toronto (9/2015)

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Alo opened a couple of months prior to my visit.    The suggestion to visit came from the sommelier at Shōtō, who knows the chef.  He thought it would match up well with the type of food I like to go after.  It was very easy to make a reservation on OpenTable.com.  What I didn’t know was that they have a Chef’s counter where they serve an extended menu.  You have to reserve a seat there separately.  However, after I was seated, I did ask if I could have the extended menu even though I was seated at a table.  They asked the chef and there were enough portions available to let me have the extended menu if I didn’t have to make any adjustments due to allergies.

From the street, you enter a relatively unmarked door into a narrow hallway where you are greeted by the receptionist.  From there, they send you up an elevator to the third floor.  As you exit, you see that about a third of the seating area is allocated to a bar area, where they serve drinks and small plates.  The rest of the space is devoted to an open kitchen and seating for the restaurant.

The standard tasting menu consists of five courses.  You get to choose among pairs of items for the non-dessert courses. There are small bites offered in between as well sometimes. For the extended menu, there is no menu presented beforehand.  However, from what I could tell, several of the courses were smaller versions of the dishes offered on the standard menu.

They had a list of specialty cocktails, as well as a list of wines by the glass, mostly featuring Canadian winemakers.

After you are seated, they bring a tray of napkins, where you can choose to have either a white or a dark napkin.

For the full write-up, click here.

Shoto 6th Visit — Toronto (9/2015)

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My late summer/early-fall visit to Shōtō was a nice time to be in Toronto.  It was at the tail end of the Toronto International Film Festival (bad for hotel rates, but good for liveliness), and the weather was still summer-like most of the time.  Even though I had been there only two months before, the menu was going to be mostly different.

They were kind enough to pour me a taste of the sparkling wine from Ontario. After that, I went with a glass of the rare pour of the Chardonnay from Montrachet.

The first snack to start things off was an East Coast oyster with pepperoncini.  After that, it was a new item – herbed cornbread with some cheddar and cultured butter.

For the full write-up, click here.

Bo Innovation 2nd Visit — Hong Kong (9/2015)

Second visits to restaurants can be tough.  On the one hand, I kind of know what to expect.  On the other hand, I may not.  The food may be very consistent or not, the same or not, and my expectations of a second visit may vary.  In this case, I expected consistency (it is a 3-star Michelin restaurant, after all) and I thought the menu would change somewhat (it didn’t, except for one course). 

They again offered the savory waffle bread, with Chinese ham and scallions to nibble on.  I learned from my last visit – I didn’t eat as much of this on this visit as I was very full after my meal last time.

I went with the 2012 Diel Riesling this time, which was on the sweet side, but perfectly fine for the meal.

The first course was the “century” duck egg and pickled young ginger flavor incorporated into the foam for an amuse bouche. The plank was from an actual harbor pylon.  The smoke was from the liquid nitrogen, which helped keep the foam intact.

The second course was the fried taro encasing a tea-smoked quail egg, topped with Chinese-sourced caviar and gold leaf.

The quick bites and texture contrasts were a nice way to get the palate ready for the meal.

For the full write-up, click here.

Sketch Lecture Room and Library — London (8/2015)

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Sketch Lecture Room and Library is the fine dining section in a building with several venues (I had afternoon tea in the Gallery on my last London visit).  The restaurant is part of the Pierre Gagnaire collection (I’ve visited his outposts in Las Vegas and Tokyo).  The location was easy to find, as it was on one of the main shopping streets in London off of Regent St.  The venue for my dinner was divided into two areas, as appropriate for the name.

For dining options, they offer a tasting menu, a vegetarian tasting menu, and a la carte options.

I decided to go with the vegetarian tasting menu.

The wine-by-the-glass list was fairly extensive.  I only photographed the whites.

I selected a 100ml glass of the 1974 Jurançon.  It was the most full-bodied and distinctive white wine I had ever tasted.

The meal started off with a collection of canapés which were brought before I made my menu selection. These included their version of a vodka martini, but made with a jelly, spiky artichoke leaf, aioli with saffron mayonnaise and pine nut, Parmesan sables, chilled gazpacho of strawberry and tomato, artichoke cream with cumin cracker, squid ink wafer with fresh goat cheese, and crunchy bread with lardo di carlotto and Dijon mustard.

For the full write-up, click here.

Kitchen Table 9th Visit — London (8/2015)

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A midsummer visit to Kitchen Table always seems to be a treat.  I visit with anticipation that I will see some new flavors with fresh ingredients.  I learned on this visit that they are now drawing from their own garden in Northumbria.  Their gardener sends down a box of whatever is ready for that week, and Chef James thinks of things to do with it all.  The menu for this visit was:

 The first dish had some traditional English flavors with fresh peas from pods with mint oil vinaigrette and an elderflower sorbet made from elderflowers picked in London last year.

Next was fried rehydrated potato starch with smoked cured Scottish salmon, chives, brown sugar and sour cream.  This was nice and crispy, with lots of flavor and texture.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Momofuku ko 6th Visit — New York City (7/2015)

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My travel schedule brought me back to New York just two weeks from my prior visit.  Despite such a short time, I still wanted to come back for a meal here.  They knew I was coming back relatively soon, and they even promised to make some changes to the menu in time for my return.  Even the wine list changed a little.  I went with a glass of the Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

The pommes soufflé fried potatoes were filled with pimento cheese.  The beet with caraway tuille was filled with bleu cheese this time.  The compressed apple was garnished with horseradish yogurt and puffed rice.

For the full write-up, click here.