2/19/2013 11:35:00 AM

The Best Thing We Ate Last Night: "Winter's Day" at Sixteen

There was 24-karat gold on our Ossetra caviar

Sitting on the sixteenth floor, overlooking the clock on the top of the Wrigley building, we released a laugh that echoed through the sparse dining room. We looked around at the other white-tablecloth-covered tables for gazes of scorn, but instead found the other diners at Sixteen in the Trump Hotel and Tower were having just as much fun with their elaborate meals.

Executive chef Thomas Lents attributes the whimsical qualities of his “Winter’s Day” menu to the aperitif course at The Fat Duck. Diners at the world-renowned restaurant arrive in suits and formal dresses, prepared for a very serious dining experience only to be presented with a nitrogen-encapsulated bite. After consuming the orb diners blow smoke out of their noses, hence setting the tone for an impressive but not stuffy evening.

The same approach holds true at Sixteen, where courses tell the story of a single winter’s day beginning at sunrise and progressing past an ice-covered pond, continuing with a walk in the woods and concluding with a snow storm. The captain of each table acts as the narrator for the evening, telling a personal story about his or her connection with food during the winter months. Our captain, Elliot, who has an interest in poetry, wrote a poem about winter that appeared on our menu. He compared the poet’s relationship with the reader with the chef’s relationship with the diner, as in each create the product but the consumer determines the interpretation.

We are still interpreting the eight-course meal that happened last night. The meal began with sunrise symbolized by a blood orange meringue on top of elderflower soda and citrus gelée with pomegranate seeds. It continued to the aforementioned pond, which truly did have fish (smoked sturgeon) underneath a sheet of ice. Then there was the snowstorm, a flurry of freshly grated cauliflower over nori, langoustine, spanner crab and licorice root.

The transition into the richer courses happened with a walk in the woods. A plate adorned with pinecones and pine needles held a dish of beluga lentils, truffled roots and a pine emulsion. It was followed by something not commonly seen at fine dining establishments (although making it rain cauliflower was also new) - spiced foie gras, caraway and crème fraîche with hearty borscht. The last course before dessert was a celebration of meat - rib of Wagyu beef, marrow, béarnaise and Yorkshire pudding. Nothing says winter like a slate board covered in rare meats.

Now for dessert, the course that induced uncontrollable laughter. A lemon sorbet served on top of Pop Rocks and coconut caused the first wave of chuckles. Unlike another signature Pop Rocks combination served in Chicago, these added flavor as well as novelty to the dish. It was followed by a find-your-food course of fluffy white foam, or "milk cloud," that concealed hazelnut ice cream and chestnut brittle. Then we were served milk and cookies by a "fire" - we have yet to figure out how pasty chef Patrick Fahy got the dish to crackle. It was followed by tableside nitrogen hot chocolate that covered the table with cold chocolate-scented smoke.

Finally, in case we were not having enough fun with our food, they rolled out the mignardises cart. It was more like a carnival than a cart complete with a Ferris wheel filled with caramel corn. Overall, the meal was delicious, thought-provoking, beautiful and all of the descriptors one expect with upscale dining. But most importantly, it was endlessly entertaining. View the photos from our unforgettable meal below.

1 comment :

  1. Sixteen's Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy was named today as a semifinalist for America's Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation. Sixteen's sixteen-course menu is the best in Chicago!