If you want to know the importance of wine at The Boarding House ( 720 N. Wells St.; boardinghousechicago.com/dine/ ), all one has to do is look up upon entering the establishment.
Even if one doesn't know that famed sommelier Alpana Singh is one of the forces behind the restaurant, the wine-glass installation ( featuring more than 9,000 of the itemsand, no, that's not a misprint ) right above the main bar on the first floor lets guests know about the relevance of spirits.
However, there's much more to The Boarding House than that installation ( and another one consisting of wine bottles that's on the third floor ). The restaurant is an multi-level establishment consisting of bars, dining rooms and spaces for private affairs. I also liked the restaurant's locationenough to ensure it can be busy, but not so overwhelming as something you'd find near Michigan Avenue.
Then, there's the food. I asked our server ( who came off as pretty knowledgeable and attentive ) if the food was centered around the wine, or vice versa. He replied that the items "are like dance partners," with each taking turns leading the other. It was an elegant responseeven if it did momentarily make me think of the show So You Think You Can Dance.
Regarding the appetizers, the soft-egg spinach raviolo ( with ricotta, caramelized onions, beech mushrooms and truffle ) is a can't-miss item, as is the combination of hen egg and polenta fries ( complete with bechamel sauce, pecorino cheese and truffles ). I also greatly enjoyed the baby octopus, which is accompanied by squid-ink aioli, chorizo, grilled lemon, confit potatoes and shishito peppers ( which can be hit-or-miss in terms of spiciness ). By comparison, though, the beets-and-goat cheese salad seemed a little flat; it wasn't bad at all, but it didn't quite match up to the aforementioned standouts.
For my entree, I chose the bone-in Berkshire pork chopand it seemed that I selected well. The chop was incredibly juicy, and the cheddar croquettes elevated what could have been a standard side mix of red cabbage and roasted apples.
As for dessert, yeah, you should make room for that. Again, my friends and I got three items: the oatmeal-raisin cookie sandwich ( with cream cheese-and-bourbon caramel filling ), the espresso gelato truffle and Julia's carrot cake. The latter was extra-special as far as I was concerned, as I will praise any dish that can make me appreciate walnuts. However, you can't go wrong with the other two, either.
Singh, Executive Chef Tanya Baker and Pastry Chef Julia Fitting have their own version of "girl power" happening ( although I feel compelled to give genial General Manager Matthew Sheridan a shout-out as well ).