September 29, 2010

Custom House Tavern @ Chicago

After a long long drive to Chicago, we were looking forward to a nice dinner to make up for all the fast food we ate on the road. My first destination- Custom House Tavern, a convenient 10 minute walk from my hotel in the South Loop. This actually turned out to be one of the more upscale restaurants that I visited on my trip. Although not terribly expensive, portions were on the small side. But I've always valued quality over quantity, so I can easily overlook the small portions.
The decor is modern and chic, with large windows that allowed in ample sunlight. I'm surprised that the place is not slightly busier on a Sunday night.
A wine shelf served as a divider that separated the bar area from the dining area. Although this was pretty cool, I still wish I got a seat by the window.
To start, we were served mini pieces of baguette along with whipped butter. Nothing extraordinary but since I love bread, these were a pretty satisfying start to the meal.
CRISPY VEAL SWEETBREADS- French green beans, vidalia onion, fig vinaigrette. Sweetbreads are actually culinary terms for the thymus or pancreas. The Chinese eat everything so I'm quite accustomed to eating various internal organs of animals, but those less adventurous ones might feel a little grossed out by the sound it. However, I thought that this dish tasted quite good, and more resembled the texture of fried chicken.
CUSTOM HOUSE BURGER: all natural ground beef, house pickle, wisconsin cheddar, sourdough brioche. All in all, this was not a bad burger, but for 10 bucks I expected a little more. Although I wished for a more intense flavour, I did love the melted cheese that coated the beef patty, keeping it moist (I really hate dry burgers). The fries were just mediocre at best, however, as I found them slightly too greasy and salty.
CURED PIG’S HEAD: pickles, arugula, grain mustard. I had no idea what to expect for this dish, but it reminded me of the cold dish 燻蹄.  Overall, I still prefer the Chinese dish more, but I did greatly enjoy the arugula and watermelon, which were refreshing additions to the dish. On a side note, the pickles were way too sour for my taste.
WARM POLENTA CAKE: mission figs, local blueberries, sweet corn custard. We ended off the meal with a great dessert. This cake was warm, moist, and had an intense corn flavour that I loved. I never knew that I would like a corn dessert that much, but I was converted by this cake. For this, I wished the portions were bigger as the three of us mopped up the entire cake in a mere few minutes. Overall, this was an excellent ending to an excellent start of my culinary trip.


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