Oriole, Chicago, 5/10/2017 (17-Course, $190 excl. Taxes & Grat.), American Progressive, Michelin 2-Star
When I made the reservation, the receptionist alerted me the unusual appearance of the entrance, but I was still lost until a delivery men pointed out. The restaurant is located in premise which was probably a warehouse, its entrance doors are comprised of two pieces separated horizontally instead of the conventional way of separated vertically. When the door was being opened, upper piece would move upward and the lower piece would move downward. After the guest walk into the restaurant, the door would close. Inside the restaurant, it was decorated with many Japanese-Korean style white lamps. It can accommodate approximately 20 guests, with an open kitchen. The restaurant offers only one set of menu. Chef Noah Sandoval opened this restaurant only slightly more than a year ago in the interesting Fulton Street Market section of Chicago.
Bread and butter were served – seaweed bread, cream cheese with Myer lemon and peel, and ramp flower and ramp jells
1st Course – Golden Osetra Caviar, Coconut Dashi, Lychee and Sea Grape
At the very bottom, there was pickled apple with lychee sorbet on top of it. Then, a layer of shiso (belonging to mint family in red-leaved or green-leaved forms) and chive were topped with Osetra caviar, coconut-dashi gelate and sea grape (light green balls). Using sea grape and coconut dashi was the most interesting method of enhancing caviar’s taste and in the meantime to make it tasted sweeter.
2nd Course – Fraises Des Bois, Foie Gras Mousse, Pistachio and Ras El Hanout
Ras el Hanout is Arabic for “Head of the Shop” and implies the best of mixture of spices that the seller has to offer. There is not definitive composition of the spices that make up ras el hanout, usually includes cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and coriander, etc. At the very bottom, there was a piece of crisp made of flour and ras el hanout with a bit spicy taste. The crisp was topped with foie gras mousse and pistachio pesto, wild strawberry and anise hyssop. Anise hyssop has the smell and taste of anise, although it is a member of the mint family. Using wild strawberry and pistachio pesto greatly improve the overall balance of taste.
3rd Course – Scottish Langoustine, Spring Roll with Shio Kombu, Rhubarb and Mint
Scottish cold-water langoustine with shredded radish were wrapped in rice paper. On top of this roll, there were shredded shio kombu (seaweed) and mint. On the side, there were rhubarb cream with red powder made of Korean chili gochujgang pepper. My taste bud was very happy with the luscious and stimulating combination of ingredients.
4th Course – Kampachi, Nigiri with Yuzu Kosho, Rhubarb and Genmai
4th Course – Kampachi, Nigiri with Yuzu Kosho, Rhubarb and Genmai
Raw Nigiri fish filet was coated in yuzu kosho (made of yuzu peel and pepper paste), then coated by nori powder. On top, there were some puffed Japanese brown rice(genmai.) This is a variation of Japanese sashimi. The kosho paste was truly wonderful and sophisticated, it gave you taste bud a little kick from the chili pepper and still let you taste the luscious taste of fish. This was my 2nd favorite course for the evening.
5th Course – Bone Broth, Vietnamese coriander, Cinnamon and lemongrass
In the vegetable pot, there was beef bone broth with carrot, lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander. In addition, there was an empty bowl, at the bottom of bowl there was some red chili oil to be infused by the beef broth served at the table.
6th Course – Beef Tandon, Puffed with Wagyu Tartare and XO
Courses # 5 and # 6 were supposed to be eaten together. While you ate soup, you could also enjoy the classic A5 Wagyu beef tartare. A5, considered the best quality of Wagyu beef was prepared with chopped Vietnamese coriander and was place in the middle of a piece of puffy fried tendon in the same plate. The server also told me that I would be getting a course with A5 steak later. I was thrilled that I had another A5 two days ago in Grace and would be getting it again for the 2nd time in a week.
7th Course – Beausoleil, Mangolica Consomme, Finger Lime and Borage
I knew this course would be another wonder, mangolica to other breeds of pig is like A5 to other breeds of cattle. Beausoleil oysters are farmed in floating trays in Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick. Because of their carefully controlled, rocking, uncrowded environment, Beausoleil oysters are always perfect. It takes about 4 years to mature at 2 ½ inches. Oyster was served in mangolica’s broth and served with finger lime cells (seeds.) Finger lime had such a unique taste, it was an ideal accompany of shellfish.
8th Courses – Hamon Mangolica, Black Walnut, Egg Yolk and Quince
On the side, there was a thin almond crisp, with mangolica ham, egg drop, kumquart drop, blue cheese drop, and some dill sitting on top of the crisp.
9th Course – Iceland Steelhead Trout, Smoked Roe, Spring Onion and Fresh Herbs
Iceland trout’s flesh looks almost like Arctic char, in pale pink. It was served with Applewood smoked trout roe, and micro-greens with green goddess’ sauce (with varieties of herbs.) Trout skin was crispy and medium and tender in the center.
10th Course – Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Hudson Canyon Scallop, Dried Wild Blueberry and Oxalis
Both scallop and foie gras were from Hudson Valley, and seared. Scallop was crispy outside and very tender in the center. They were served with duck jus, candied onion, pickled mustard (small yellow balls), and oxalis which had acidic taste reminiscent of sorrel. Chef used oxalis instead of fruit to provide a balanced taste with foie gras.
11th Course – Sourdough, with Cultured Butter and Puffed Grains
A slice of toasted sourdough with cultured butter and puffed grains and chive to serve as a mild palette cleanser.
12th Course – Capellini, Italian Summer Truffle, Rye Berry and Yeast
Capellini, not too thin, not too thick, served with summer truffle. Chef Sandoval came to the table to shave truffle onto the plate. It was also served with parmigiano cheese, rye berry and yeast. I asked chef why yeast was used as an ingredient in this course, he said the slight sour taste of yeast provide a more overall balanced taste. It was delicious.
13th Course – Japanese A5 Wagyu, Charred Little Gem, Furikake and Sesame Loaf
There are some grades for WAGYU beef, and A5 is the highest grade given only to the finest beef. It is famous for its smooth velvety texture, juicy flavor, delicate but rich taste. Its appearance looks marbling, tiny pieces of fat finely distributed. Marbling is never too rich, it almost melts in your mouth. The marbling is also the evidence that cattle have been specially raised in the vast lush wilderness using carefully selected feed (corn and rice straw), pure water and clean air.
Beef is classified into four categories, Japanese black cattle comprised the largest number of 4 breeds. Its deliciousness consists of the following factors: the taste and flavor that spread out in the mouth, and the smooth texture. The standards of grading beef consist of yield grade and quality grade. “A” of “A5” means the yield grade and “5” of “A5” means quality grade.
This melts in your mouth steak was served with charred little gem (1/2 baby lettuce), sprinkled with lemon juice and toasted sesame seeds. It was unconventional that chef used furikake to sprinkle on everything, except A5, in the plate. Traditionally, furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning meant to be sprinkled on top of cooked rice, vegetable and fish. It typically consists of dried and ground fish, sesame, chopped seaweeds, sugar, salt, shiso, and dried miso, etc. Chef used it for a dish of A5 wagyu, but did not sprinkle any furikake on top of A5 steak. Chef also made a rather unconventional inclusion, he used triple-grounded roasted onion instead of potato purée (it almost looked like potato purée in photo.) Just the sheer thought of succulent A5 could make my taste bud happy.
14th Course – Cucumber, Sorbet with Basil, Champagne and Tonka
I guess Tonka is a very popular and fashionable spice these days, many chefs at the restaurant that I visited recently used it.
Cucumber sorbet was served with champagne, basil and tonka bean for its nice aroma.
15th Course – Croissant, Raclette and Rosemary Apple Butter
A flaky croissant was filled with soft raclette cheese and rosemary apple butter. Although I was overwhelmed with many dishes at Oriole, I dearly missed the truffle croissant at Acadia.
16th Course – Gianduja, Gelato with Mascarpone, Preserved Cherries and Sakura Tea
Pickled cherries were at the bottom, topped with mascarpone and fermented cherry gelato. Since cherry was not very sweet most of the time, chef used Giandujo which is a sweet chocolate spread containing about 30% of hazelnut to provide sweetness and decoration.
A wooden tray filled with three items. These were the equivalent of lovely petit fours – ice cream sandwiA wooden tray filled with three items. These were the equivalent of lovely petit fours – ice cream sandwich with black currant, salted caramel chocolate and fernet (a bitter and aromatic sprit) and soda bon bon.
Oriole’s pastry chef delivered a goodie box to each customer upon departure. Inside the box, it was a rhubarb tart, the most delicious rhubarb desert that I have ever had during this week of fine dining in Chicago. Oriole has provided with impeccable services and extraordinary cuisine in terms of taste, flavoring and presentation beyond what I normally can expect from a Michelin 2-Star restaurant. Chef was very creative and made many dishes to perfection. It would be the 1st restaurant that I think of whenever I visit Chicago again.