Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Black Sheep

 Here in Chicago, we have an enviable problem. There are too many great restaurants and not enough time (to go to them or to work off the calories!). Sometimes, this makes choosing a restaurant tough. So many good options! Adam and I solved this problem last week by going to a new restaurant that he saw on his bus route to work. We hadn't heard anything about the place but a quick glance at the menu looked promising so we decided to go out on a limb and give it a shot.

Oddly, the place didn't open until 6, which was hard for us early birds to adapt to, but we grabbed a drink 2 blocks over at The Twisted Spoke beforehand. We certainly debated going elsewhere- I was HUNGRY and didn't want to be up too late- but we both had become interested in seeing this random restaurant pic so we stuck around.

Bottom line: The Black Sheep is amazing, soon to be one of the most raved about restaurants in Chicago, so you should go there now before the secret gets out!!

The interior is really cute and quirky. Dimly lit w/ fun furnishings and interesting, offbeat colorful paintings. The bathroom is cute too, so make sure you stop in:) The combination of the music, the ambiance and the very attentive, eager-to-please waitstaff clad in full suits w/ sneakers sets a great tone for the evening.

The food is American Cuisine "albeit twisted and disoriented" per the sign, and the twists are really fun and unexpected! For example, the wine list. I had never heard of any of the wines by the glass offered so was "forced" to try something new. I ended up with a nice white Quattro Mani from Slovenia. Yes, Slovenia. And it was good. For my red w/ dinner, I choose an Arizona Cab Sauvignon. Did any of you know that Arizona has a wine maker? Let alone a really good one??

In terms of food, each menu option was carefully planned, creative, made w/ the best ingredients and cooked to perfection. I have nothing bad to say about any of the dishes we had. And, like the wine list, most of the food offerings are unusual, so no matter what you choose you are likely trying something that you've never had before. Our choices:

Seafood appetizer (clockwise from 12- little neck clam, octupus, anchoive, shrimp)
Little Neck Clams / sardines / octopus / shrimp- I LOVED the clams and sardines and I usually don't like clams. The octopus was cooked properly, which isn't always the case.

Illinois beef w/ scallion. All of the garnishes were delicious especially the mushrooms.
Illinois Beef / scallop / onion pudding / bergamot- All excellent and the scallop was perfectly cooked. The beef came in 2 cuts: 4 medallions and an oxtail (tail of cattle, usually stewed). The medallions were great. My only critique would be that the oxtail didn't need to be fried, the meat was fine w/o the fried shell.

Red Fish w/ pork rillette. Look at that egg!
Red Fish / pork rillette / bacon royal / chicken egg- Very tasty. The egg was soft boiled and tasted as perfect as it looked!

For dessert, we had  the
smoked brioche beignet / malt semi freddo /sour beer carmel / marshmallow / pickled apples at our waiter's recommendation and it was amazing. We also had the Dante cheese plate and Adam had 13 yr Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

We weren't planning on going out to dinner this evening, so I didn't have my camera (just my iphone), so sorry the pictures are dim!

For the local foodies, I'd say The Black Sheep's menu ('unusual' selections like sweetbreads, snails, mutton as well as more typical mussels, skate, etc) and vibe is similar to that of Leopold, but The Black Sheep does things better than Leopold:
                       Black Sheep                           Leopold
waitstaff             eager to please                                    too cool for school
ambiance           dark, quiet, spacious but still hip        nice looking but cramped and loud
menu offerings  combo of heavy and light                   you-better-bring-your-Lipitor heavy
food plating       garnishes=creative and delicious       what's a garnish again?
beer                    multiple goose island selections         good except for the absence of goose!

All comparisons aside, I highly recommend a stop at The Black Sheep over on 1132 West Grand. You won't be disappointed!

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