Untitled Restaurant, ChicagoBy Kovasp
Imposing, unmarked double doors mark the entry to this surprising venue, with stairs leading to its basement location under an ersatz wig store. It’s clear that much attention and money were lavished on the design and its execution—truly a luxurious dining experience. Very dark, befitting its underground site, which only emphasizes the variety of lighting present—especially impressive are the 2 bars, all aglow with bottles backlit.
There aren’t many better ways to start a summer dinner than with a sparkling rosé, and we both happily indulged, me with a Schramsberg “Mirabelle” Rosé, while Laima opted for the Don Pat’s Pinkie Ring, a tart sparkling rosé-based cocktail. They were a good foil for the Caramel-Bacon Popcorn, an unusual snack available nowhere else that I’m aware.
For the meal, we opted to try a house specialty, the charcuterie and cheese platter, the Chef’s Selection of 3 for each of them. The Charcuterie consisted of Wild Boar Salami, Surryano Ham, and Finocchiona, while the cheese was An Asher (?) raw cow blue, a Hooks 7 Year Cheddar, and a sheep Dante, the last being our favorite, though they were all very tasty. Along with these we ordered a multitude of small plates, perfect for sharing (hence “American Tapas”). We were excited to try the Crispy Squash Blossoms (with truffle honey,farmer’s cheese, and piperade purée), but it was not available, as they are out of season. Bummer.
After the cheese and meats, out came the Salt Baked Baby Beets (with pickled golden raisins, goat feta, and pistachios)—really yummy, with a nice minty flavor which acted as an atypical sorbet. At this point I tried to order the Triennes Rosé, but stocks were low and a Treval (?) Rosé was substituted—even though it was quite dark for a Rosé, it had a refreshing tart flavor.
Laima’s Grilled Peach and Arugula Salad (with cured virginia ham, almonds,and goat cheese) was up next, along with the Goat Wonton (with blackberry sweet-n-sour sauce and pea salad), both of which she thoroughly enjoyed. To go along with these new dishes, she ordered a Carmel Road Pinot Noir. Roasted Broccolini and Grilled Hanger Steak (with red pepper béarnaise and arugula potato salad) were up next, so it was time to try the Michael David “Freakshow” Cabernet Sauvignon, worth ordering for the name alone (the taste is quite awesome as well).
Last up to bat were Grit Cakes, a breaded cream cheese fried bite (with tomato jam), along with Roasted Heirloom Carrots (with walnuts, currants, and pickled shallots). The Grit Cakes had an interesting texture, reminiscent of grittiness but not unpleasant—the creamy interior was a nice contrast as well. The Heirloom Carrots were perfectly cooked, with the prefect amount of snap left, combining perfectly with the walnuts and shallots, the currants adding a chewy component.
Though each and every dish had something going for it, my two favorites were the Grit Cakes and Heirloom Carrot dishes. Laima thought the Hanger Steak was the star, but couldn’t find much fault with anything.
As we prepared for dessert, we were treated to Paul Asaro playing stride and ragtime piano, a nice surprise. He’s played all over the world with a cast of greats; his home base is Chicago, though, and when he is not on the road he is holding down the piano chair at Untitled. Very cool. Desserts were a Key Lime Tart and a Crème brûlée, paired with very tasty decaf and regular cappuccinos. The Key Lime Tart had an amazing crunchy crust and the thickest, goopiest custard we’ve ever had. The Crème brûlée, oddly enough, was cold, but, just as oddly, tasted really good and was a unique experience.
Sitting back on our banquette, tummies full and happy, it was a pleasure to reflect briefly on the meal with the piano tinkling in our ears. Looking around, the décor is inspired, with a luxurious look and feel, and retro and contemporary simultaneously. Nice. Bathrooms were spotless, as was the rest of the restaurant. Our only criticism is that the tables for 2 seemed a bit small for a meal that is supposed to be composed of many small, shared dishes. It was never really a problem, but it got crowded at times. I also felt the restaurant was a tad dark, though Laima disagreed--definitely hard to get good photos!
Walking out of the restaurant, it was great to perambulate around the block, crossing the river twice and seeing the beautiful lights of downtown surrounding us. Untitled is really a unique experience, in the very most positive sense of the word. The entry, the look and feel, and the food all have a one of a kind approach, resulting in an experience that can not be replicated elsewhere. Definitely search out this hidden gem.
Check out the Untitled website, like on Facebook, and follow on Twitter.
Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Untitled. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.
Would you like your restaurant reviewed? Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!
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