Sunday, February 14

2016 Chicago Restaurant Week Recap

The ninth annual Chicago Restaurant Week took place from January 22nd to February 4th and it was as delicious as ever! If you're not familiar with CRW, it's a 14 day period where restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs offer $22 prix-fixe lunches or $33 or $44 prix-fixe dinners. There were over 350 restaurants that participated this year, including 54 new participants.

First Bites Bash is the official kick-off event for CRW featuring 60 restaurants cooking items from their unique menus. I attended this year and it was a wonderful night! First Bites Bash was held in the beautiful and massive Great Hall at Union Station and there was no shortage of food and drink! Check out some of my favorite dishes from the evening and be sure to purchase your First Bites Tickets in advance next year--the event always sells out!

First Bites Bash
First Bites Bash
First Bites Bash
Tiradito Chalaco from Tanta
First Bites Bash
Bang Chop Papaya Salad & Shrimp Toast from Saigon Sisters
First Bites Bash
Celerey Root Veloute from Cindy's
First Bites Bash
Venezuelan Arepa from Vermilion
First Bites Bash
Butterfish Tataki with White Asparagus and Yuzu from Roka Akor
First Bites Bash
Braised Baby Octopus from Filini
First Bites Bash
Banana Budino from Intro
BOKA
Boka Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For CRW this year, I had planned on trying four new restaurants. Unfortunately, I caught a nasty cold and that reduced my restaurant plans from four, to two restaurants, BOKA and Piccolo Sogno Due. BOKA's CRW menu was four courses for $44 and featured dishes that changed daily. I liked that they were tailoring their menu based on available ingredients, but it also made it hard to plan what you wanted to eat since the online menu typically was different than what was offered at the restaurant.

The BF and I joined another couple for dinner on the first Sunday of CRW and the place was packed. We were seated in the enclosed courtyard which has moss-covered walls! The ambience was amazing, I can't do it justice so definitely check out the photos on BOKA's website

The four course menu included your choice of a cold starter, hot starter, entree, and dessert. All of the dishes we tried were amazing, as was the service. For it being CRW, I was impressed with how flawless our entire experience was.

Some of the food highlights of the evening were the marinated hamachi, slow poached eggs, gnocchi with black truffle, smoked arctic char, and coffee & hazelnuts dessert. BOKA is a fantastic value for CRW and I'd highly recommend trying it! The BF may have left hungry after our meal, but I was pretty full...all of those bites really added up.

I'm giving BOKA 4.5 ghosts out of 5!



BOKA
Marinated Hamachi with Kohlrabi, Grapefruit and Horseradish
BOKA
Heirloom Carrots with Pistachio, Vadouvan, Dates and Smoked Feta
BOKA
Celery Root Soup with Pumpernickel and Hazelnut
BOKA
Slow Poached Egg with Squash, Grains, and Parmesan
BOKA
Gnocchi with Black Truffle
BOKA
Rohan Duck with Kale, Onions, and Butternut Squash
BOKA
Slow Cooked Pork Neck & Belly with Bitter Greens and Chestnut
BOKA
Smoked Arctic Char with Beets, Dill, and Brown Butter
BOKA
Dark Chocolate Mousse with 70% South American Cacao, and Creamsicle
BOKA
Coffee & Hazelnuts with Praline, and Whole Milk Ice Cream

Piccolo Sogno Due
Piccolo Sogno Due Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The second CRW menu I tried was lunch at Piccolo Sogno Due, the sister restaurant to Piccolo Sogno. The River North location is super convenient for a weekday lunch if you work in River North or the Loop like I do. My team headed there for lunch to try their three course lunch menu for $22. I thought it was a good value and they definitely didn't skimp on the portions. Their CRW menu included quite a few options for each course, and all were from their regular lunch menu.

I started my lunch with the cavolo salad with Tuscan kale, squash, shaved fennel, squash chips, and Parmesan dressing. It was so rich and cheesy and delicious! I liked the crunch of the squash chips instead of croutons as well. 

Piccolo Sogno Due
Cavolo Salad
For my entree I enjoyed the grilled Scottish salmon filet with asparagus, tomatoes, and pickled fennel citrus oil. The salmon was a hearty portion, and was nicely charred.

Piccolo Sogno Due
Grilled Scottish Salmon
Finally, I ended with some pretty amazing gelato including chocolate hazelnut, and straciatella. It's not everyday I get to eat gelato at lunch so it was such a special treat!

Piccolo Sogno Due
Gelato
I thought the food was well-prepared and it's a solid lunch spot if you're in the area. The ambience is nice, but definitely doesn't compare to the original Piccolo Sogno which has a gorgeous patio. If you're looking for a hearty three course lunch, Piccolo Sogno's CRW menu hits the spot and is a great value. 

I'm giving Piccolo Sogno Due 4 ghosts out of 5!

Note: I attended First Bites Bash with a media pass; however, all opinions are my own.

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