In a recent staycation review, I mentioned how hotel restaurants have skyrocketed in recent years in terms of the quality of the food ( although that hotel's spot didn't necessarily make the cut ).
Case in point for the place that excels: ETA Restaurant + Bar ( 455 N. Park Dr.; www.loewshotels.com/chicago-downtown/dining ), which is nestled in the first floor of the Loews Hotel.
Perfect for a date ( judging from the low lighting and romantic grooves ), telegenic Chef Matt Lange has concocted some incredibly appetizing dishes.
Now that I've finally come around and actually like avocado, a dish like avocado toast ( with citrus salad, nduja and soft egg ) is a no-brainer. And just try not to eat all the chicken-fried mushrooms. ( How did someone not think of this before? ) Other appetizer options include Brat in a Blanet ( with hot pepper jam ) and even beer-cheese croquettes.
Entrees also shine. I actually opted for the fried-chicken BLTwhich was as sinful as it sounded. However, the relatively healthful salmon would be a great selection as well; it was expertly prepared. As for the sides, crispy Brussels sprouts definitely get a thumbs-up, although the mac 'n cheese ranked as merely okay next to the other selections.
Also, ETA has some mouth-watering dessert choices. Just try to ignore the hot-fudge brownie for two, the cheesecake panna cotta or the chocolate stout cakea wonderful item with Nutella ganache, chocolate pretzels and cherries.
Lastly, don't ignore the cocktails at this hideaway that probably won't be so for much longer. ( BTW, drinks are mostly named after various train linesin line with the restaurant's name. ) I really liked the Super Chief ( with vodka, pear liqueur, demerara syrup and prosecco ), although I still miss the Secret Garden ( kappa pisco, black-rose liqueur, demerara syrup, lemon and egg white ) I tried last summer.
Another example of fine hotel dining is Cafe Robey ( 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave.; www.therobey.com/ ), located in Wicker Park's The Robey.
Executive Chef Kevin McAllister has whipped up winter menu options that manage to simultaneously feel upscale and comforting. Things started with a sumptuous beer-cheese soup that had a little kick thanks to droplets of chili oil. Unfortunately, this item was part of the Chicago Restaurant Week menu, along with a lovely salmon and decadent Cocoa Puffs panna cottacomplete with a chocolate-studded spoon.
Luckily, Cafe Robey still offers an intriguing olio aside from those Restaurant Week items. The panzanella was a gustatory delight, combining fried sourdough, roasted Brussel sporouts, red onion, pickled red cabbage, apple and butternut-squash vinaigrette. Also, I really liked the braised and crisped pork belly, which comes with sweet potato, five-minute egg, pickled pearl onions, Fresno chiles and kale. Other choices include dishes featuring scallop, duck and even striped bass.
Vegetarians will certainly appreciate the fire-roasted carrot and fennel with carrot puree, quinoa, arugula and tomato vinaigrette.
And I'll have to return to try one dessert item, in particular: a dark-chocolate mousse with charred pineapple, strawberry dust, almond tulle, chocolate crumb and gold leaf. It sounds as fun and intriguing as The Robey itself.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.