Tag Archives: Wicker Park

An Interesting Evening @ Schwa

Oh no.  Oh no no no!  They hung up… Ah man… Hello? I was just about to give them my name… when suddenly…  silence!  Now, I wouldn’t have been so concerned about this, but I had been calling randomly for a reservation for oh say… the past six months.  Yes,  I had been calling since November and had not been able to get a hold of anyone, until today.  So for the next 20 minutes straight, I called Schwa until someone picked up, again.  I frantically started to explain my situation when the man on the other end said, “Sorry dude, somebody kicked out the phone jack”  He took my name, and with that, my reservation was complete.  Three weeks later we made our way to Schwa, for a 9 course tasting menu.

schwa

The Atmosphere:

From the outside its difficult to imagine a restaurant exists behind the dark facade and grafitied black door.  Any passerby may think it’s just another restaurant that didn’t make it, until you pull open the door and walk inside.  The small space is dimly lit which paired well with the blaring rap music that played throughout the night.  The place and the people are chill, so wear what you want, bring your own booze and chat it up with your server, who just so happens to be a Michelin starred chef.

The Food:

The food is a reflection of the atmosphere: intriguing and unpretentious but presented in a sophisticated and upscale manner.  Chef Michael Carlson’s diverse culinary influences are on display on the menu with elements of Italian and modern molecular techniques scattered throughout.  A few of our favorites included a baked potato soup, which was a great deconstruction on the classic with all the toppings, a sweet passionfruit gelee with salty steelhead fish roe, and his amazing, signature quail egg raviolo in truffle butter.  The most surprising dish of the evening was a dish called smores, which instead of marshmallows and chocolate happened to be a beef mole served with a side of campfire smoke.

Our Thoughts:

We were in a serious funk when we walked into Schwa… but at some point during the night we went from crabby to carefree.  The relaxed lounge like atmosphere put us at ease while the chefs served the food and found the time to tell us about their creations.  It was a true interactive experience, but not for those looking for a subdued environment. We’d go back in a second… if only they’d pick up the phone!

Schwa | 1466 North Ashland Avenue | Chicago, IL 60622 | (773) 252-1466

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Takashi

February 14th 2010 was quite a memorable day, mainly because I had walked down Michigan Avenue with part of my dress tucked into my underwear on the way to the Symphony, but by the time we arrived at Takashi for dinner I had nearly forgotten my minor faux-pas.

We had been meaning to try Takashi for sometime, so when I finally realized we were dining at this intimate establishment, I was quite excited to finally sample some of Chef Takashi’s Japanese influenced French-American style dishes.

The Atmosphere:

Nestled on Damen in what appears to be a small house Takashi is a contemporary dining experience in a neighborhood setting.   As you enter the front door, you are immediately greeted by a steep staircase which leads to the second floor dining area. We were placed here for the evening amongst other lovebirds of sorts.  The space feels very inviting and has a good karma from the last restaurant that resided at this location. It just happens to be the same space as Scylla the restaurant Stephanie Izard closed prior to her Top Chef win.

The Menu:

Yellow Tail and Pork Belly

The menu has a large selection of small plates, both hot and cold, with several larger dishes at end to close the meal. We opted for the a la carte menu, though they offered a prixe fixe menu for Valentine’s Day.

We began our meal with a cold plate. We started with Japanese Yellowtail Hamachi with spicy Napa Cabbage slaw and daikon pickled califlower and an aromatic vineagarette. It was a unique raw preparation with blasts of heat from the slaw that was prepared kimchee style. The spiciness nearly overwhelmed me at first but fortunately I had a delicious glass of wine that put out the fires raging in my mouth.

For our next course, we had the Soy-Ginger Carmel Pork Belly with Pickled Daikon Salad, Steamed Buns. Now I have to say, I had my reservations when George ordered this dish. Despite what the majority of the culinary world seems to think, I have always found pork belly to be… well… a giant slab of fat that just never seems appetizing. So when our pork belly arrived, I must say I took my first bite with trepidation. The dish was fantastic! It was basically a deconstructed chinese steamed bun. I assembled my bite by first placing a sliced of steamed bun down, next a small spread of wasabi mustard, then comes the perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth pork belly, and finally topped with pickled daikon salad. The combination of flavors was outstanding. It was blend of classic Korean and Chinese flavors.

Soba Gnocchi – Takashi

We stayed with the hot small plates for our next course and had the Sauteed Main Scallops and Soba Gnocchi Trumpet Royale, Celery Root-Parmesan Foam. This dish was the perfect fusion of East and West. Now, I am very skeptical of the overplayed “fusion” concept that dominates the food scene, but if there ever was an example of true fusion of flavors, this would be it. The soba gnocchi was delicate and the scallops perfectly cooked. The sauce was so good that I caught George lapping up the last drops with a silly grin on his face.

For our final course we had the Roasted Indiana Duck Breast and Confit of Leg with a Compote of Quince, Ginger-Orange Glaze. The duck was well cooked and married well with ginger orange glaze. It was the right balance of sweet and savory. I was in love with the confit of leg, but a little unhappy with skin on duck breast. I was hoping it would be a little more crispy, but I know that would have sacrificed the perfect level of doneness when it arrived at our table.

Duck Breast and Leg Confit

The second main dish we had was the Mackarel with a napa cabbage roll and eggplant. This fish had a nice crispy skin but reminded me of the sea a little too much.

This may be because George could not stop saying how he has always found mackarel to be a little fishy in taste since the minute we ordered the dish. The eggplant was well prepared and complimented the fish well, but the delicious wrapped napa cabbage with the sauce was the real treat to me.

Our Thoughts:

Japanese Mackeral and Egg Plant

Japanese Mackeral and Eggplant

We were quite impressed with the elegance of each dish presented to us, and even more impressed with the seamless fusion of cultures. Takashi is the ultimate example of what true fusion cuisine is suppose to be and now joins the short list of gourmet restaurants that we dub worthy of taking our out of town guests.

Takashi | 1952 N Damen Street Chicago IL 60647 | (773) 772-6170 |

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