Last week, Rocky and I flew to Chicago for a few days to have a few meals and do a little boozing. Since I met Rocky I had been telling her of my admiration for Paul Kahan, his restaurants, and the creativity of his team. After a sleepy flight into the Windy City from LGA, we checked in to our hotel, enjoyed the amazingly sunny day for a bit, then made our way over to Avec for an early dinner.
At almost a decade old, the dining room is still as hip and relevant as the coolest spots on either coast. Communal tables along the west wall. To the east, counter seating facing the kitchen. The space surrounded by cedar, oak, steel, and glass.
We took a couple seats at the stainless steel bar, started with some bubbles, looked briefly at the menu, and dinner was underway.
English pea-ricotta crostini with mint, watercress, lemon vinegar and bottarga di muggine. Our first peas of the season..Hooray! The peas and ricotta were pureed and spread on toasted garlic bread. Fresh flavored and lightly bitter with clean, sharp acid from the onions dressed with the lemon vinegar and salinity from the sliced bottarga.
Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. Full mouth flavor. Not too spicy. Super rich with balanced sweetness. Served with beautifully light and crusty bread.
Marinated chicken thigh with brussels sprouts, ginger-currants, potatoes, sumac and cilantro. Rocky said ‘This chicken is super awesome!’ and I agree. Juicy and meaty with crisp delicious skin. The brussels sprout salad was tossed in a strong acid and carried some pretty decent heat.
Wood-fired squid amatriciana: san marzano tomatoes, guanciale and fideo with fennel aioli. This was bad ass. Tender squid over thin, short fideo pasta amatriciana baked and barely crusty. The fennel aioli was fun for a slight cooling against the spice, but I preferred it without.
Lamb bolognese with hand-cut tajarin, swiss chard, mint and pecorino romano. I prefer tajarin to be sheeted a little thicker for a more dense bite, but the broad thin noodle did well with the oily lamb sauce. The swiss chard tossed in was fantastic.
Affogato with pistachio zaletti. Just as it should be, with a nice buttery texture. The zaletti were incredible.
Chocolate & tangerine sorbet. Chocalte sorbet, almost chewy in texture, accented with light tangerine.
Burnt honey semifreddo with orange carmel and cumin sesame. Inside a chocolate dome. From Rocky: ‘Oh boy…this semifreddo is where it’s at’. A little salt was nice with the richness. The orange, cumin, and sesame were all apparent, but none were overbearing. A tasty dessert.
Nutter butters. These little guys were effing awesome. A crunchy, buttery, striated base studded with cocoa nibs with a caramelly top.
Housemade chocolate crisps. Milk and dark chocolate tempered and sheeted with feuilletine. Simple enough. Nothing not to like here.
The food at Avec is delicious. Full-flavored, accessible, and exciting. A week later, Rocky and I are both still craving more.
Date of visit: April 8, 2013
Avec. 615 W Randolph. Chicago, IL 312.377.2002 avecrestaurant.com/