Friday, May 1, 2015

The Kitchen or The Invisible Concierge

The Slow and Savory Review

Having so many friends scattered across the globe who could pop into Chicago for a spur of the moment visit at any time, Brandy has to be constantly prepared to show said friends a good time, which of course should center around an unforgettable meal.  Case in point, this past weekend Brandy's dear chum Babka (world renowned Polish rock star) popped into town for a quick visit.  "You are the keeper of the brunch secrets," Babka said to Brandy, "So I ask you to take me to the best brunch you can find before I continue on to the next stop on my tour."

Faced with trying to find a brunch reservation on short notice at one of the hottest places in town, Brandy turned to Reserve, a dining concierge service that just launched in Chicago, which allows users to find reservations quickly and easily, send reservation info to friends via a simple text, and even pay for the entire meal straight from their phones.  The moment she learned that Babka was headed into town, Brandy hopped onto Reserve, entered the day and time she wished to brunch, chose from a list of top notch restaurants, and in less than an hour, her reservation was confirmed.  "Thank goodness!" Brandy exhaled, "Now I don't have to take the poor girl to some grungy diner in the middle of nowhere for some rubbery pancakes and dry scrambled eggs!"

The restaurant Brandy had chosen to meet Babka at was The Kitchen, a beautiful open downtown space right on the river.  Removing her dark sunglasses cautiously, Babka took in the beautiful high open ceilings, the twinkling light fixtures, the gold and glass tables, and the all around fresh and beautiful space, which took full advantage of the gorgeous views of the city outside with the help of a wall of windows that flooded the dining area with sunlight.  "As always, your taste is exquisite," Babka said, approvingly.  Brandy breathed a sigh of relief.

A quick glance at the drinks menu made for easy decisions: a Mimosa for Babka and a Berries and Rosemary for Brandy.  Babka thought her mimosa was very well done, not being too sweet or acidic, but perfectly fresh and fizzy.  Brandy's cocktail, which had self explanatory flavors, was quite springy and refreshing with the herbs complimenting the berry flavor nicely.

The pastry menu proved to be an insurmountable temptation, so both ladies ordered up a Canelle, which is a traditional French pastry made with a custard base and baked to caramelized perfection.  "But what does it taste like?" Babka questioned.  "Sort of like a really good fortune cookie," the helpful waitress responded, and this answer seemed to please Babka.  The pastry did indeed have a nice caramel like flavor with a chewy exterior and a soft, eggy interior.  "It would be rather nice with a cup of coffee, don't you think?" Brandy asked.  "Yes, what were is the fortune? I still can't find mine," Babka replied, perplexed.

Next, in keeping with the sweet theme, the ladies split a Dutch Baby Pancake, which came adorned with fresh berries, mint, and ricotta cheese.  The texture of the pancake was slightly crisp and lightly chewy with a deeper flavor than a typical pancake.  The berries and cheese felt a bit heavy on top of such a delicate thing, but the taste was suitably subtle and fresh, especially with the little bit of mint.  "If I were eating this as my main course, I wouldn't mind a bit more berries on the side, as this beautiful little pancake can barely hold what's on top of it," Brandy commented, "But as a shared course or a starter, it does make a lovely impression for the rest of the meal."

Babka chose the Smoked Salmon Bruschetta as her entree, which consisted of diced salmon scrambled eggs, and greens atop a large piece of toasted bread.  Babka found the salmon to be exceedingly fresh and tender, but not over overpoweringly smokey, while the eggs had a downright silky texture that she really enjoyed.  The bread did seem a bit tough to cut, but Brandy supposed it was necessary in order to support the large amount of toppings.

Brandy decided on an old standby, the Steak Frites, which featured a dry aged Slagel Farms cut, topped with an herbed butter, two over easy eggs, and served with large portion of fried potatoes.  "I'd always thought frites meant a thin and crispy French fry," Brandy confessed, admiring the thick cut sticks, "But these are nice regardless."  The steak was cooked to an utterly perfect medium, only made more decadent by the addition of the melting butter on top of it, a touch one rarely sees on a breakfast steak.  Though the portion of steak was a bit small for the price (about 5 pieces for $23), Brandy was already rather full from the previous dishes, and so felt quite happy.

At the end of the meal, Babka was mightily impressed to see that Brandy had already taken care of the bill, via Reserve, meaning there was no sitting and waiting for the check, nor was there any more fuss for the server (in addition to the meal charges, there was also a $5 concierge fee).  Although the service at The Kitchen was impeccable, one thing Brandy did dislike about Reserve was that the tip level had to be decided before hand when entering the payment information, not after the meal when one could truly judge the quality of one's treatment at the establishment in question.  "Not that I ever tip under 15% anyway, even in the worst of circumstances" Brandy shrugged, "But I'd still like the option."  "Thank you for another fabulous brunch, my friend," Babka gushed as they collected their things, "Now I am fueled for the nine hour bus ride ahead of me."  "Yes, those road trips in a luxury tour bus can be quite trying, can't they," Brandy replied.

The writers of this blog were given a credit towards their meal by Reserve in exchange for an honest opinion of their experience.

The Short and Sweet Review

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