Sixteen Soaring High Under Its New Menu Direction
Sixteen has been flying high as one of Chicago’s preeminent fine dining restaurants for years now under executive chef Thomas Lents, but now that the restaurant has settled into a more routine, ingredient-driven seasonal menu format, it’s safe to say the restaurant is better than it’s ever been. In past years, Sixteen operated within a highly ambitious regimen wherein the menu would completely overhaul every few months within a specific theme. From “land and sea” to “American food revolution,” menu themes have run the gamut, setting the pace for a memorable dining adventure unique to Chicago. With the onset of spring, however, the restaurant on the 16th floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower has pivoted towards a menu rooted in seasonal ingredients.
The new dinner menu at Sixteen, humbly titled “A Study in Ingredients,” is like a choose-your-own-adventure book for well-clad clientele. While the dinner options are drastically pared down from past iterations, the customization options make for an exciting, dynamic and entertaining experience. Vintage food and cookbook imagery decorate the menu, preparing customers for a deep dive into a masterful interpretation of classic cooking. Four main sections—To Begin, To Continue, To Follow, To Conclude—are up for grabs, with a few options per course. Or if you’re feeling devil-may-care, you can forgo specific decisions and select one of Sixteen’s overarching menu categories. These include The Family of Lobster, The Fish and Shellfish of the Brittany Coast, The Variety of Game, A Study of Poultry, Variations of Vanilla and A Season’s Abundance of Citrus and The Bounty of the Root Cellar.
From there, your chosen category will dictate the customized flow of your multi-course meal. Unlike former fully thematic menu iterations, this is more of a micro-theme alternative, which adheres to the primary focus on seasonality and pristine ingredients. If customers want an elongated tasting, the kitchen will intersperse different items throughout the evening, along with a series of bread courses, each with a specific butter, and a cheese tasting adjoined by a spread of different honeys.
Opening menu items currently include a sour cherry dish with artichokes and smoked foie gras and squash; a citron and pear dish with cured duck breast and chestnut; and variations of navet with lobster carpaccio and rosemary agrodolce. To continue, plates include trofie pasta with seaweed, tidal fish and shellfish; liver dumplings with bouillon of hen and vegetable sachet; and bone marrow with cold water langoustine and red wine sauce. Next up there’s black truffle with turbot in brioche, salsify and Brussels sprouts; cedar-roasted squash with fallow venison and tobacco; or savoy cabbage wit breast of hen, foie gras and pied de mouton mushrooms. Finally, dessert options are date pain perdu with cognac toffee and green apple; sesame shortbread with Madagascar vanilla cheesecake and banana; and Manjari mousse with variations of orange and pine nut cake.
Wine pairings are offered by Sixteen’s impeccable sommelier Parag Lalit, who’s filled with more wine, sake and digestif information than Wikipedia.
- Matt Kirouac