When I found out that Phillip Foss (former chef of Lockwood and Meatballs Mobile owner) was starting EL Ideas a micro-restaurant inside the “Ball Cave” with Andrew Brochu, the former chef of Kith & Kin I immediately sent an email requesting a reservation. A day later I had a response in my inbox requesting I call the restaurant for a date. I chose August 18th (Friday runs are hit or miss, they should be hits but they have been misses lately).
I make it a point to not let reviews of a restaurant sway my judgement but I have to admit after reading the review in Timeout Chicago I was a bit apprehensive. “It was high-quality fish, supple and clean. But it was set on a film of coconut water “pudding” that was slimy and unappetizing” is not something you want to read before plopping down a considerable chunk of change on a meal that you have high hopes for.
But like I said, I don’t like reviews to sway my judgement (because lets face it, opinion are like you know what and Cafe Iberrico is still in business). I was excited for my 14 course “ELevated ideas in cuisine”. What I didn’t realize is how much more my meal would be.
Lets start with location. Off the beaten path, yes. I don’t think I would want to go for a long walk by myself past sunset. It is in a bit of an industrial area just a stones throw away from the juvenile detention center and just a few doors down from Water Hole Lounge.
We were immediately welcomed by our server, Bill (if memory served me correctly). He quickly put our beverages that required chilling on ice and took us to our table. White linens and candlelight added an elegant touch the otherwise lofty working kitchen feel.
While sipping on our wine we introduced to the concept of the restaurant. You see, the restaurant is in the kitchen and diners are welcome to partake in the plating and serving of dishes. Want to ask questions, stretch your legs and walk to the kitchen and ask.
We were greeted by Chef Foss and then dinner began.
The first course-O-M-G!!! Caviar…come to mama! Beets, Beets…you speak my language.
My favorite course (that I also helped plate) was the spanner crab- squid ink pasta/tomatoes/poppy seed
Other notable courses (that I can still taste if I close my eyes and reminisce)
Flavors popped with the textures of Murai corn- avocado/mango/heart of palm
Damn that ravioli was good! Like serve me up a plate of those raviolis NOW good.
foie gras- plums/rutabaga/balsamic
Okay its Foie Gras…it was cooked whole…it was everything I wanted in my fatty liver.
And eaten in the kitchen consomme- cantaloupe/whipped ham
In all honesty there was one dish that I just didn’t care for. Don’t get me wrong, I ate EVEY BIT OF IT. But on the scale of 1-15..it was dish 15 (with those chocolate salty balls somewhere in the middle)
Watermelon- cured meats/fennel/rasberry
For me, I would have liked a dry cured meat, firmer and saltier with a kick of spice to balance out the juiciness of the watermelon or a less juicy melon. Musk melon or even papaya?
Other change I’d like to see made, a less harsh soap in the bathroom. I always love restaurants that have really nice soap and lotion in their bathrooms (think AVEC and their Molton Brown).
As a whole, the food was exceptional and the whole experience was awesome. From talking to the chefs about where they sources their food to plating a dish and serving it to diners. It made the excellent food memorable.
In Summary….El Ideas is kind of like a mullet, business in the front, party in the back. And Andrew Borchu and Phillip Foss are John Stamos and Andre Aggasi circa 1990 respectively!
Photos by Charlie Ferreira
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