Some things ( including restaurants ) have to be experienced to be believed.
When I first read about Marchesa ( 535 N. Wells St.; marchesachicago.com/ ), it seemed too good to be true. Reports purported that the spot practically whisked patrons away to Europea bold claim other restaurants have made ( some successfully, others not so much ).
However, regarding Marchesa, one should believe those reports. The eatery features upscale Italian, Spanish and French dishes, and Executive Chef Mark Sabbe definitely knows what he's doingand partners Jason Clark and Kathryn Sullivan Alvera ( who worked together at Prosecco, which is just down the street ) have struck gold ( or oro ) with this one.
Even the cheese and chatcuterie are above the norm, with selections including cheese such as La Peral Blue and meats like jamon serrano and chorizo cantimpalo ( and served with rosemary, peach and black pepper jams ). Appetizers are inviting, to say the least; shrimp Jovan is pretty simpleshrimp, garlic, black pepper and butter sauce, with grilled sourdough breadbut taste much better than similar dishes I've tried. And a grand medallion of foie gras was just that ( grand ), although a little of the delicacy goes a long way. ( In addition, Marchesa has a caviar menuand there's even a caviar parfait, with roe, salmon, chopped egg and whipped creme fraiche. )
Sabbe's mastery continues onto the entrees, thanks to dishes such as orecchiette pomodoro e rapini, delicately served in tomato sauce; and steamed PEI mussels that are enticing enough to even get this non-fan to give them a try. However, the crowning achievement is the Iberico pork, served with beet puree, marinated baby beet escabeche and Iberico bacon. It's nothing less than stunning.
And as if all that isn't enough, there's the impressive decor as well as the chef's table ( in a semi-private room away from the main area ), an apartment above that will house chefs-in-residence and a space below ( aptly called "The Cave" ) that can be rented. ( See if the hostess can provide a tour. )
By the way, Marchesa starts lunch on Monday, March 19. Please check out this spot. ( This may be a good time as well, as evening going on a Tuesday evening can have one witnessing bustling activity. Imagine how the weekends are. )
LH on 21
LH on 21 ( 85 E. Upper Wacker Dr.; londonhousechicago.com/rooftop/ ), located in the luxury hotel LondonHouse, oozes sophistication.
Low lights, fireplaces, sleek furniture and impeccable service make for a place that one could easily spend hours talking, soaking up the atmosphereand eating, of course. ( You don't need to wear a suit here, but I'd leave the dingy jeans and Daisy Dukes home as well. )
Certainly, part of the reason for wanting to linger comes from Chef Jacob Verstegen, who provides dishes that are not only deliciousbut they're so artfully presented you almost don't want to touch them.
The bison tartare almost looks like something from the Museum of Contemporary Art, accompanied by aerated egg, smoked tomato, toasted cassava and brioche. And the Honeycrisp apple and red beet salad looks nothing like a traditional dishand tastes divine thanks to walnut, pecorino vinaigrette and red watercress.
The second round seems to up the ante even more, if that's possible. Dishes include sweet potato baked in ash and carrot roasted like meatthe most instructional dish names I've ever seen on a menu.
The third round ( entrees ) has items like butter-poached flounder and Arctic char ( a wonderful item with braised kale, bacon, pumpernickel crumbs and caper leaf custard ). Even the relatively plain-sounding roasted chicken is a step above what you might expect. And please make room for dessertthe choclate cake is amazing.
However, if you're not in the mood for a sit-down dinner, LH on 21 ( which has an outdoor space calledwhat else?LH on 22 ) has bar snacks. Those are, no doubt, on an elevated level as well.