Alpana - Chicago
Alpana is the namesake restaurant of Alpana Singh, former host of "Check, Please!" and the youngest woman and first Asian American to become a Master Sommelier. So, it should come as no surprise that what she's offering at her restaurant is "wine-inspired cuisine."
Ms. Singh has said that, "I use the same techniques to analyze a dish as I would a glass of wine, ensuring all the elements of balance, texture and flavor are present. Our ultimate goal is to provide our guests with a menu that has been carefully crafted to highlight and accentuate the flavors of wine — all in pursuit of the perfect pairing."
On the menu are some selections that seem like natural pairings for many of the wines in Singh's cellar.
Crispy Polenta & Mushrooms with black truffle and parmesan is one of the stellar starters, the richness of the cheese and the deep umami of the mushrooms make for a palate-perking start to any dinner.
There are a number of pastas, and a favorite is Squid Ink Campanelle with rock shrimp, saffron, chili, butter, tarragon, and pangrattato (a new one on us: it's crispy bread crumbs).
The Alpana menu lays out many wine-friendly entrees. For white wine lovers, we suggest one of the spectacular fish dishes. Striped Sea Bass is served with fennel, gordal olives, saffron nage and herb pistou, and Faroe Island Salmon is looking good with cherry tomatoes, king oyster mushrooms, and agrodolce jus.
For those whose wine preferences tend toward the reds, there's a lot to choose from. Braised Short Ribs come with roasted shallots, potato mousseline, and pinot noir jus (to pair, a pinot would be a natural), and the Steak au Poivre is a 14oz boneless ribeye with, peppercorn sauce (go with a hearty red).
If wine is not your thing, there are also a well-curated beer list and some very attractive cocktails.