Starved for discounted degustations post-Restaurant Week? Fear not, because Chicago Chef Week is coming up March 16 through 21 to fill that tasting menu-sized hole in your heart. Similar in concept to Restaurant Week, Chicago Chef Week features three- or four-course tasting menus for lunch and/or dinner in restaurants around town at a discounted rate, affording customers the opporunity to try restaurants they've been saving for and get a pretty substantial taste of it while doing so. With many top spots in Chicago participating, Chef Week is worth noting for even the most ardent food-lover and/or persnickety snob. Here are some suggestions to help whet your appetite for Chef Week.
Chicago Chef Week @ Nico Osteria
Eat this: chicory-apple salad is the ideal foreplay for a three-course meal that follows with rigatoni or spaghetti al' Nico, and a highly recommended affogato made with cardamom sweet cream gelato.
Eat this: Oceanique's Chef Week menu is actually pretty epic. It's impressive and laudable that the Evanston restaurant can cram so much upscale value into a four-course meal for just $44 per person. Each degustation starts with a "chef's surprise," which is always exciting to see on a menu. Appetizer options include butternut squash ravioli with fennel and prosciutto; wild Maine lobster consommé; and day boat scallops with lobster-soy broth and kimchi. Seasonal sorbet cleanses the palate before delving into entrees such as Maine skate with eggplant and pea tips; and Icelandic arctic char with elote and butternut squash. Chef's pastry selection rounds out the meal for dessert.
Chicago Chef Week @ Vie
Eat this: Get ready for four courses of awesome at Vie in Western Springs. If there ever was a reason to venture into the Western suburbs, it's Paul Virant's braised beef pierogi, followed by his grilled beet salad, steak frites with pickled asparagus and black pepper hollandaise, and Valrhona chocolate truffle with thyme-honey cream sauce and burnt honey ice cream.
Chicago Chef Week @ Takito Kitchen
Meal: Lunch and dinner
Eat this: Margaritas make everything better, and Takito Kitchen offers choice of margarita with both lunch and dinner menus for Chicago Chef Week. So chase your two-course lunch (salsa and masa crackers plus choice of tacos) or three-course dinner (choice of appetizer, Wagyu steak taco, choice of dessert) with one of their other-worldly potables.
Chicago Chef Week @ The Lobby
Meal: Lunch and dinner
Eat this: At lunchtime, Chef Week selections include a winter greens salad resplendent with cranberries, beets, and peppered cashew nuts, a celeriac and apple soup, braised short ribs with spelt and tomato confit, seared arctic char, and Belgian waffles for dessert with vanilla bean ice cream. Things get a smidge more elaborate for the four-course dinner menu, with items such as poached shrimp carpaccio; potato gnocchi with leeks and thyme; NY strip steak with pretzel dumplings, winter squash, and cocoa granola; and chocolate-lime cream with mint sponge, and milk ice cream.
Eat this: If there's any restaurant to check off your food bucket list, it's The Bristol. Here's your perfect opportunity, what with chef Chris Pandel's incomparable display of contemporary, innovative American cookery. There's smoked potato with leek cream and salmon roe; olive oil-poached tuna panzanella; baby beets with NORI GRANOLA and tahini; lamb saddle with pecorino custard; gnocchi alla Romagna; and poached pear trifle with vanilla honey mousse, among others.
- Matt Kirouac