Wednesday, January 12, 2011

N9NE (Steakhouse)

Thursday was my last day at the VA. Hallelujah! The month wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, mostly thanks to my 2 fabulous interns and the holidays, but I'm so happy it's over and that I'll never be on call at the VA again!

So, of course, Adam and I had to CELEBRATE!

Two years ago, Adam and I started a tradition of having dinner at steak houses on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, I was on overnight call (never again!) at the VA on January 31st. To make up for New Year's and to celebrate the end of the VA we had dinner on Friday at Nine.

In general, steakhouses have a certain dark wood, deep colors, men smoking cigars kind of feel to them. Both Morton's (2008) and The Saloon (2009) are traditional in that way. This year, we shook it up a bit by going to N9NE, a more modern feeling place w/ a champagne bar in the middle of the restaurant. The feel of the food was a bit different than the typical steak house as well. The red meat options were just about the same, but instead of more traditional sides like creamed spinach and mashed potatoes they had broccoli w/ lavender and honey and Herkimer cheddar mac & cheese.

My first impression of the restaurant was good. Nice tables, nice flatware and glasses, nice menus. It took a while for our white suit clad server to get to us but he had some explanation for the wait and his enthusiasm for the food and, it appeared, life in general, made up for it. We actually ignored all of his recommendations (we had already decided on our menu choices before he told us the specials), but every single dish we had was delicious which is a testament to the quality of the food and the chef!

We started w/ a bottle of Turley Zinfandel and the Oysters Rockefeller. Tasty and tasty. The bread was very good as well but I tried to limit myself to save space for meat. Next, we split a Ceasar salad that was described as "as it should be" on the menu, and it sure was!

For dinner I had the filet mignon, rare, topped with blue cheese and grilled onions. This is by far my favorite cut of meat. We choose truffle cauliflower and lobster mashed potatoes for our sides as well as a selection of sauces (classic bernaise, whiskey sauce, tuffle hollandaise, barolo reduction). Everything was good but that cauliflower was OT OF THIS WORLD. The priorities for the space in my stomach were filet>cauliflower>everything else. Mmmmm.

Initially we weren't going to have dessert because we were about-to-bust full, but then the server gave us each complimentary glasses of red wine (w/ very generous pours). This may have been a ploy to get us to stay for dessert and if so, it worked. Adam ordered the Cloud 9. I had no idea what to expect and was totally delighted when this was brought to the table:

A "cloud" of cotton candy w/ 3 little ice cream cones on top (pistachio, chocolate chip and I can't-remember-the-third). So! Fun! I probably haven't had cotton candy for probably well over 10 years. I forgot how fun the texture is! Part of the reason I didn't want dessert was how full I was but also, I didn't think any dessert could add to the meal after the amazing meat and sides. But, the playful nature of this dessert really did add to the meal. We were both laughing as we grabbed pieces of cotton candy, making beards, sculptures and of course letting it dissolve into sugar on our tongues. I really enjoy restaurants that have excellent food but don't take themselves too seriously.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Nine as a tasty departure from the traditional Chicago steakhouse. The meat was truly spectacular and the rest of the menu was definitely more inspired than the usual steak house. I give it a B+ for ambiance, only because the lighting was just a bit brighter than I like, the TV in the lounge/bar area was visible from the dining room and the booths/benches were too low relative to the table. I actually ended up sitting on a pillow. I'd recommend you ask to be seated at a table w/ all chairs! But do go, it's worth the caloric (and monetary) splurge!

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