42 grams 11th Visit — Chicago (12/2016)

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After my early October visit, I had not planned to return to Chicago until sometime early next year.  However, some unused vacation time gave me the chance to add an extra three-day weekend to my schedule, so I scheduled a one-night stop in Chicago to check out the fall-to-early-winter menu.  There were a few courses that were the same or similar but with slightly different ingredients.  There were also some changes in dish sequencing for the familiar ones from the prior visit.

Since this visit was with a friend, we brought along two bottles of wine to have with dinner – a Chassagne-Montrachet for the white wine and an older Rioja for the red wine.

The first dish is one that I had on the last visit, but not as the first dish on the menu.  It was whipped foie gras at the bottom with Australian finger limes, freeze-dried mango and rice sticks to form the nest.  The garnish at the top was citrus marigold.  There were lots of texture and flavor contrasts to make this a nice opening course.

This dish featured King crab, with a thick (sliceable) butternut squash panna cotta, crispy speck, land caviar (actiually the seed from an herbal plant called Bassia Scoparia, with a taste and texture similar to quinoa).  A mixture of lettuces and herbs formed the salad.

This course included wood ear mushrooms (instead of the lobster mushrooms from last time) as the main ingredient.  A shellfish sauce made from Spanish scarlet prawns dressed the mushrooms.  A homemade XO sauce added a little spiciness to the flavors, and char roe added some saltiness and texture.  Sea vegetables finished off the composition (dulse (red algae lettuce fried), a succulent called ice bud, Okinawa sea grape). There were a lot of texture contrasts to each bite, as well as a nice savoriness.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 10th Visit — Chicago (10/2016)

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A fall business trip gave me a chance for an early evening mid-week visit to 42 grams.  Since they opened up the counter seats to late seatings, I haven’t been to the early evening seating.  Since the next day would be a full workday, the relatively early dinner worked out fine.

The first dish started out with Hamachi poached in wagyu fat.  A thin sheet of daikon topped the fish, which was in turn topped with golden osetra caviar, beef tongue smoked in lapshang souchong tea, and tom kha cream (kaffir lime, lemon grass galangal).  The beef, caviar and daikon offered texture contrasts, although we were supposed to try and eat it all in one bite.

The next course had whipped foie gras at the bottom, covered by crisp rice noodles. On top, there was a star flower, finger lime pulp, and freeze-dried mango sprinkled for a final garnish.  The crispy rice noodles contrasted with the smooth foie gras, and the tartness of the finger limes worked nicely to add acidity and the mango came in with a touch of sweetness.

This course featured lobster mushrooms in a shellfish butter sauce.  This was garnished with char roe, crispy dulse (red algae) leaves, oyster blossoms, sea grapes and XO sauce.  is was a nice umami-filled dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 9th Visit — Chicago (6/2016)

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My last visit was in mid-March, still very much in the late winter/early spring menu time period.  It was now time for a mid-summer visit.  Since I was dining solo again, I went for the later seating, especially since it was my flight arrival day.  Inspired by my last visit to Kitchen table, I found a white Rioja that I wanted to give a try.  It wasn’t quite as good, but it still was nice enough to have with dinner.

The meal started off with the return of a favorite ingredient of mine – fried corn silk.  For this dish it garnished a Golden Nugget oyster from Washington State.  This sits on a sweet corn panna cotta and a piece of crispy speck (Applewood smoked). The final garnish with the silk was a celery leaf.  The slight crunchiness and sweetness made the bite much more interesting than just having mostly oyster in the bite.  

At the bottom of the bowl, there was a kombucha gelée (tea made from stems and leaves).  There was also a small dollop of tofu cream.  Diced carabinero (Spanish scarlet prawn) was placed on top of the gelée, along with a froth made from a broth based on the cleaned prawn heads. The noodles were crispy rice noodles, dusted with nori and phytoplankton.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 8th Visit– Chicago (3/2016)

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This visit was only about six weeks since my last visit.  It was not planned when I made my prior reservation.  A group of Chicago friends was planning to go and invited me, so managed to fly into Chicago for a couple of days prior to a work assignment.  The menu was almost the same as a few weeks ago.

The first snack was the African snail caviar.  It has a cucumber taste, so the other ingredients play off that, including lacto-fermented and charred Korean cucumber (for a little tartness and flavor enhancement), viola flowers, avocado and buckwheat blinis.

The next course was new last time for the restaurant.  The bottom had a kombucha (fermented) tea made into a gel form.  This was topped by diced carabinero (Spanish scarlet prawn), tofu, citrus caviar (finger limes), prawn head froth, and crispy rice noodles seasoned with phytoplankton.  This was intensely good and well-balanced, with bright flavors and lots of texture variations. Bright, sharp flavors perfectly complemented the savory shrimp flavor, nicely enhanced by the foam.

The next dish featured grilled white sturgeon from Idaho with golden Osetra caviar from Israel, vichyssoise piping, and dill. Along the one side of the fish was a helping of fingerling potato chips.  It was a very tasty take on fish and chips, with nice flavors and textures melding together.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 7th Visit — Chicago (1/2016)

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One of the times I like to come back to 42 grams is just after they take some time off.  I’m just interested to see what Chef Jake comes up with to start off the year and the new season’s menu.  I had time to go wine shopping before dinner, so I picked out another Meursault, a Roulot this time, which I don’t usually have access to.  But this one was from a recently-purchased vineyard in the village and not the main Roulot acreage.  But they finished and bottled the wine under the Roulot name.

The first snack was the same as in the fall, where we were introduced to African snail caviar.  It has a cucumber taste, so the other ingredients play off that, including lacto-fermented and charred Korean cucumber (for a little tartness and flavor enhancement), viola flowers, avocado and buckwheat blinis.

The next course featured several new ingredients for the restaurant.  The bottom had a kombucha (fermented) tea made into a gel form.  This was topped by diced carabinero (Spanish scarlet prawn), citrus caviar (finger limes), prawn froth, and crispy rice noodles seasoned with phytoplankton.  This was intensely good and well-balanced, with bright flavors and lots of texture variations. Bright, sharp flavors perfectly complemented the savory shrimp flavor, nicely enhanced by the foam.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 gram 6th Visit –Chicago (10/2015)

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It was time for my seasonal (early Fall) visit to 42 grams.  The reservations are still for counter seating by default, but they will seat people at the table if it works better for the groups that book and request it. For the wine this time, I brought a 2011 Meursault (De Montille Soeur-Frère Casse-Tête), which worked very well with the meal.

The menu, presented at the end, had many changes from the spring.  I was reunited with some elements from early in the history of Chef Jake’s dishes at Sous Rising with this menu, which I appreciated.

Our first course featured a new ingredient – snail caviar (African white snail, raised in Poland, and imported to Chicago). The taste reminded the chef of cucumber, so the ingredients are built around that theme.  The orchid on top tasted faintly of cucumber.  Underneath were green disks of Mexican cucumber (cucamelon), and alternating layers of avocado (for richness) and buckwheat blinis.  This one-biter was light, with just enough richness to help the flavors make an impact.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 5th visit — Chicago (June/2015)

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I promised that I would be back for the summer menu, so I planned a trip for mid-June.  When I was setting up my reservation, I noticed that the reservations for both seatings were going to be at the counter.  So, I took the opportunity to book the late seating, which I never get to do otherwise, since it usually was designated for the dining table.  And for the wine, I hadn’t had a Riesling in a while, so I brought a bottle of a medium-priced one.

The menu had some new items, as well as some items from the spring menu.  In comparing menus, I noticed that some of the courses that appeared to be the same did have a change in the sourcing of the main ingredient or slight changes in the supporting components.

Every station or reservation setting had a bucket available to keep wine chilled if needed.

The first quick light bite was raw scallop with Thai flavors.  With the three pieces of scallop, there was some coconut milk, basil seeds and kefir lime.  This was garnished with compressed cucumber and grilled golden kiwi.  The sweetness helped pick up the sweetness in the scallop.

For the full write-up, click here.