This is a very late post about Chef's Week in Chicago (I think it was back in February- THAT'S how far behind I am in posting!). I'm still a little unclear on the difference b/t Chef's Week and Restaurant Week as both involve multi-course prix fixe menus at cheaper than usual prices, so I participated in both this year:)
Sara and I made our way to Boka in Lincoln Park, winner of a Michelin star. The food was good, but not any better than I would expect for a restaurant of this caliber. I don't think it's fair to judge a place based on the fixed price offerings during a big event like Chef's Week. While I'm sure the restaurants showcase tasty options they probably also factor in cost since, for example, a 3 course meal during this week is only $33 (usually would be closer to $50/person). (Note this is very different than how I feel about the "Chef's Menu", which is not ordered en masse and usually showcases the freshest ingredients and the chef's favorites.)
So, Boka was "good enough" food and service-wise and very, very cute ambiance-wise, so I'll make a tentative recommendation. I'll go back (in the summer to take advantage of the great patios!) before I make a final judgement.
Here's what I tasted:
2007 Buckin' Bambino, Zinfandel, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma County, CA
A great buy for $45/bottle.
Wild Mushroom Soup
Pickled Red Onion Marmelade, Farm Egg, Pea Shoot
This was my favorite course. Very well done. The addition of the egg and the marmelade really made this dish.
Pink Peppercorn Crusted Big Eye Tuna
Cauliflower-Curry Fondant, Crispy Coconut Tofu, Watercress
Sara had this one. I had a taste and it was good. High quality fish.
Wild Mushroom, Beet Braised Kohlrabi, Vidalia Onion Sauce
Risotto is hit or miss. This was somewhere in between. It was tasty and had a fun crunchy texture (unusual for a risotto but I guess that's where the 'tart' came in), but not the best dish I've ever had.
Venezuelan Chocolate Cake
Caramel, Stout, Blackberries
Uninspired, but fine.
If you are looking for a cute date night location, certainly consider Boka. But also consider Blackbird, Pane Caldo, Sepia and a plethora of other great modern Chicago restaurants. And from what I saw the outdoor patio is possibly 2nd best in the city (Piccolo Sogno is #1), so if you go, go in the Summer!