Monday, July 17, 2017

Oriole - Chicago, IL

While on a recent family trip to Chicago, Mrs. Hackknife and I had what was our best meal of 2017 so far at two Michelin-starred Oriole, a newer establishment (opened in 2016) that's an exciting addition to the national fine dining scene. Chef Noah Sandoval and his tight crew are turning out incredible cuisine in a spare and elegant space on a scruffy backstreet in the city's River North neighborhood (661 W. Walnut Street). Patrons have to pass through a freight elevator (which is transformed every evening into a tiny hostess lounge before resuming its day job after closing) to enter the restaurant, giving it something of a speakeasy feel.

Both food and service were exemplary, so much so that I'm bending my recent rule of avoiding blow-by-blow tasting menu descriptions just for this posting. Sommelier Aaron McManus presented wonderful drink pairings for the Japanese-inflected meal that included not only French and Italian wines, but also sake and even a sweet Norman cider.  I'm lacking photos of two courses that I liked just as much as the others: an ethereal bone broth (normally I scoff at that description as most broths are bone-based; however, I wasn't scoffing when I tasted it) studded with Vietnamese coriander, cinnamon, and lemongrass and a petite croissant stuffed with a powerhouse combo of Spring Brook Farm Ashbrook cheese and rosemary apple butter (I didn't think it was possible to amp the flavor of an already-rich croissant, but here we are).  If you're considering a visit to Oriole for dinner, I urge you to book now before reservation backlogs reach Alinea-type levels...

Puffed Beef Tendon with Wagyu Beef Tartare and XO Sauce

Beausoleil Oyster with Mangalica Consomme, Finger Lime, and Borage +
Almond Crisp Topped with Mangalica Ham, Black Walnut, Egg Yolk, and Quince

Oba King Salmon with Smoked Roe, Spring Onion, and Fresh Herbs

Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Hudson Canyon Scallop with Dried Wild Blueberry and Oxalis

Capellini with Australian Winter Truffle, Rye Berry, and Yeast

Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef and Bearnaise Sauce with Charred Little Gem Lettuce, Furikake Seasoning, and Sesame Leaf

Gianduja Chocolate Gelato with Marscapone, Preserved Cherries, and Sakura Tea

Mignardises of Strawberry, Milk & Cookies, and Fernet Branca

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bonchon Chicken

Now that I'm residing in an area with a substantial amount of Revolutionary War history, I'm doing my best to make the rounds and visit all of the local historical sites, including Federal Hall, which is down on Wall Street in the old part of Manhattan. Fortunately, Eater's Robert Sietsma was kind enough to point out that good fried chicken is nearby, so I popped in after my Federal Hall tour for a bit of lunch.

Bonchon Chicken is a South Korean-chain that specializes in Korean fried chicken wings. The lower Manhattan restaurant (at 104 John Street) is a small food counter that's literally in the back of a bar (of course, there's a strong bond between alcohol and chicken wings).

I made the mistake of ordering tenders, which were a little dry; however, the fried coating was terrific. If you're not a fan of spice, stick with the soy garlic in lieu of spicy - I ordered half of each and found the spicy tenders to be close to incendiary. The kimchi coleslaw I picked for my side was just as hot, but was strangely appealing in a way that the bird wasn't (probably due to the cooling effect of the dairy in the dish). I'll remember the chicken, but it's the coleslaw that I'm still craving...