Apr 062014

TÊTE Charcuterie (1114 W Randolph Street) officially opened for business in the Meat Packing District. Which is fitting, given their menu of house cured saucissons, composed fresh sausages, terrines, and pâtés. I popped in for a few bites during their soft launch party to sample the goods.

Is Randolph street’s newest restaurant worth seeking out?

Ham  | Tete Charcuterie

Piles of paper-thin ham slices await.

The Meat of the matter…

A few salads aside, the menu focuses exclusively on skillfully prepared and artfully plated cured meats. The waitstaff highly recommended the Germany sausage, a mild brautwurst served with vinegary peppers and grainy mustard. Each forkful delivered a balance of flavorful pork and pickled tang, and the smallish serving left me with an appetite for more.

The Pork Belly Rillons were a highlight as well. The smoked bacon was a feast of fatty textures, while the XO sauce mixed a wallop of heat with crunchy meat bits. I carefully spread one on the other as savored each bite.

Notable passed items included a mild Mortadella — a bologna dotted with pistachios and infused with white wine, the Duck Pâté, and the house-made gerkins. Of everything I tried, I would go back for more of the perfectly seasoned American Hot Dog, the epitome of encased meat. It’s great to see restaurants do the simple things well.

Germany Sausage | Tete Charcuterie

The German Sausage was worth the splurge.

I’ll drink to that…

TÊTE Charcuterie has a respectable beer and wine list, but I was intrigued by the cocktails and the near-sighted mix-master working the bar. I ordered a Tete A TÊTE made with gin, bitters and sparkling wine, and watched this gentleman squint as he poured out each measure. Simply fantastic. Each sip cut through the flavorful noise of charcuterie, making this drink a perfect companion for a meaty meal. I wanted more.

The Two-Three Days and Enhhhhhh each featured a sweeter approach to balancing the palate, but proved awkward to order in the booming space. However, the names were the only complaint I had — each drink was delicious. If you like vodka, watch as they construct a Jackson Blues with green tea, lemon and sparkling wine. Tasty.

Prepping | Tete Charcuterie

The painstaking work that goes into salad.

I think TÊTE Charcuterie is worth seeking out. With a superb selection of charcuterie, tapas-sized plates, and convivial cocktails, they are set to make a mark on the Randolph restaurant corridor. Make plans to go before its over-run with hungry fans of swine, beer, and game.

Enjoy more…

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was granted to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


Jan 312011

Closed. Enjoy the memories…

Prix Fixe

You can watch meal preparation in the open kitchen.

I had the chance to try Lincoln Square’s newest fine dining concept, Prix Fixe. It was their second night of service, so the timing between courses wasn’t quite right and a request for hot tea was an unexpected adventure. But what they lacked in polish, they made up for in attentive and delighted service for each customer that walked in the door. And the food? It was the best deal for the money that I’ve come across in a while.

Prix Fixe | Gnocchi

I started with a delicate gnocchi.

As you might guess from the name, Prix Fixe serves a fixed menu — three courses with three selections for $35. If you’re not that hungry, you can split a three course meal with a dining companion for $50. They’re still in the process of obtaining a liquor license, but if you forget to bring something, there are a couple of liquor stores within walking distance. I hope they decide to keep the BYOB option.

Appetizers for our table included the potato soup and gnocchi. I thought the soup was a tad salty, but touches of roasted garlic and savory crouton made it rock. The gnocchi was a nice combination of firm, flavorful pasta and tender mushrooms served over a squash puree. Definitely worth ordering again.

Prix Fixe | White Fish

A lightly seared white fish served over relish with dill sauce.

We tried juicy, roasted chicken served over an incredibly light polenta and drizzled with honey sauce. My dining companion said it was the best chicken she’d had in Chicago in a long time. I felt the same way about the white fish. Too often this fish is either bland or overcooked, but my dish was lightly crispy on the outside, moist in the center, and perfectly seasoned. The relish and dill sauce were flavorful, tangy accompaniments.

Prix Fixe | French Toast

Breakfast turned dessert.

We opted out of the cheese plate for dessert because it was heavy on the bleu cheese. Instead we tried the molten lava cake with sweet cherries, topped with mint. We thought it was actually too sweet and needed something more tart for contrast. The French Toast with vanilla ice cream was more successful. The ginger sauce elevated it from a sweet breakfast item to an interesting dessert.

I want to try a few of these dishes again, but the owners plan to shift the menu around each week to keep the focus on local and seasonally available produce. We were able to walk up and get a table on a Saturday night, but don’t expect that trend to continue. Once people discover this Lincoln Square spot, you won’t be able to get into the tiny 34-seat restaurant without a reservation.

How do you feel about this restaurant concept? Plan to travel to Lincoln Square to try it? Let me know in the comments.

Prix Fixe
4835 N. Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

Dec 272010

You know a meal is something when it completely overshadows turmoil with goodness. More than a year ago, on my way to Mexique for dinner, the front wheel of my wheelchair came off when I was crossing the street. It was pretty distressing as you might imagine. But once the immediate crisis was averted, and I limped three-wheeled into the restaurant with assistance, the evening became all about the food (and, I‘ll admit, wine to take off the edge)!

Since then, I’ve wondered if Mexique is keeping up its Mexican French fusion cred, and since I’d eaten recently at Sabor Saveur, which has a similar concept, my curiosity was top of mind.  So when I got a new wheelchair a few weeks back, I took it out for an inaugural restaurant spin to Mextique.  Appropriate, don’t you think?

My friend Alisa and I went all in for the $65 six-course tasting menu, and it was so good that we found ourselves back at Mexique a week later with more friends in tow to try additional menu items the tasting didn’t offer.

The bottom line is that everything we tried, some dishes more than once, was excellent.  The food was quality, the sauces were simmered with care, and the plating was gorgeous.  Sure, we had our favorites, but that’s a matter of personal preference and not a statement about the quality of what we ate.  Even our friend with serious food allergies was easily accommodated and happy with her dish.

Some of our favorites on the menu included pan seared skate wing, with cauliflower, Yukon Gold potatoes, Serrano Peppers, grapes, in citrus butter sauce; herb crusted rack of lamb and coffee braised lamb shoulder barbacoa sope with sweet & spicy eggplant, and roasted garlic-milato chile essence; and stuffed chile poblano, zucchini sofrito, chihuahua cheese, spaghetti squash, and tomato fondue.

Couple the outstanding food with a small neighborhood dining room and attentive service and you have a winner.  You can count on me visiting Mexique many times in the new year.  Been there? Let us know what you think! Leave a comment or drop us a line on Twitter.

1529 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622