New Spring Dishes: Part Deux

New Spring Dishes: Part Deux:

It's impossible to navigate the surfeit of new dishes and drinks that balloon across menus in Chicago as the weather warms and seasons change (finally). With May nearing the midway point and farmers' markets in bloom, that means fresh provisions are absolutely teeming. Here's a roundup of some of the latest new dishes to debut on menus throughout the city. Eat them immediately.

Boarding House green garlic risotto
(Green garlic risotto at Boarding House)

One of the best spring dishes in town right now may very well be the green garlic risotto with maitake mushrooms and asparagus at Boarding House, courtesy of new-ish chef Tanya Baker. Not only does this Kermit-green dish look the part, but it tastes it too, each silky bite erupting in vigorous flavor.

An asparagus dish with ramps and strawberries? Have we died and gone to farmers' market heaven? Nah just Takito Kitchen doing spring justice. The lustrous dish is one of several new menu additions for the season, along with Yucatan style chicken tacos with pickled rhubarb, spring herb rice with snap peas and charred carrots, and cobia ceviche with rhubarb dashi and ramp oil.

Spring has sprung on Michigan Avenue in the form of newly planted flowers lining the Magnificent Mile, and it's also sprung inside at Michael Jordan's Steak House. A new menu from chef James O'Donnell includes an Angus skirt steak with ramp chimichurri and an asparagus and colossal crab salad with preserved lemon and espelette emulsion.

Nothing really says fresh and light quite like sushi. Sure sushi is an apt meal any time of year, but there's just something so innately perfect about fresh, clean fish preparations in the midst of sunny, warm weather. RA Sushi recently unveiled some new menu items for the season. The array of crafty hand rolls are enrobed in lo bok and soy paper, with fillings such as chili ponzu yellowtail, calamari tempura, spicy tuna, and shrimp tempura.

Rolls at RA Sushi
(New rolls at RA Sushi)

With new summer hours in place comes some new menu items at Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Along with their signature, buttery fried chicken, the restaurant now boasts an impressive breadth of sandwiches, including a honey buffalo sandwich, a Reuben melt, and a fried onion ring sandwich topped with roasted garlic hummus, pea tendrils, and roasted red peppers.

If a dish called "spring garden" doesn't sound like the most apropos dish in the world right now, just forget about everything and stop. TETE Charcuterie is serving up the spring-tastic dish, a cocotte of spring vegetables with fruits and herbs. The rigorously seasonal dish alternates products based on market availability, so there's a 100% chance it will change steadily. Additionally, more fresh provisions serve to enliven the meaty menu. Sample diver scallops with charred spring onions and pickled strawberries.

Spring ingredients delve into Appalachian roots at Big Jones, in the form of dishes such as rhubarb pie with Cherokee sweetmint ice cream, pan-fried morel mushrooms with hominy grits, and spoonbread with crackling, wilted ramps, and cornflower salad. Make like a seasonal mountain man and eat up.

Tony Mantuano's empire of restaurants are single-handedly monopolizing spring deliciousness. At Cafe Spiaggia, there's ravioli filled with ricotta and pecorino with ramp pesto, plus beef carpaccio with English pea gremolata. Terzo Piano boasts a grilled asparagus flatbread with mozzarella, ricotta, and tarragon-walnut pesto, as well as a pea-tastic medley of pea tendrils and pea shoots with English peas, housemade pancetta, shaved cheese, and shallot vinaigrette. Then there's Bar Toma, which is serving up spring pappardelle with wood-roasted lamb leg, fava beans, harissa, mint, orange zest, and Manchego; ricotta- and fava-filled ravioli; ramp pizza (!); and amaro-marinated strawberries with rhubarb jam, cardamom creme anglaise, biscotti, and cocoa nibs.

Ramp dish at Fountainhead
(Ramp dish at Fountainhead)

Ramps take the spotlight at Fountainhead in the form of a new grilled ramp baked orechiette dish laden with ricotta, Parmesan, basil marinara, and garlic croutons. It seamlessly bridges the gap between indulgent and refreshing, so that's nice.

Spring is nigh at South Water Kitchen, where fiddlehead ferns adjoin mushrooms for a spring-y flatbread; scallops arrive with green pea puree, wild mushroom barley, and lamb bacon; and smoked tomatillos pair with a stuffed pepper preparation along with brown rice, black beans, sweet corn, and cilantro.

For seasonality with a side of luscious whimsy, you can't do any better than the PB&J French toast with housemade brioche, rhubarb jam, and peanut butter whipped cream at 2 Sparrows. The dexterous brunch favorite is also serving up bacon-wrapped asparagus with hollandaise, a fava- and pea-studded couscous salad, and rhubarb cocktails.

- Matt Kirouac

- Matt Kirouac