One of the downsides of living in a city with as many great restaurants as Chicago is, you'll never get to try all the places you want to. Another is, often you don't get a chance to go back to places you've enjoyed in the past. Sometimes not for years. And for me, mk is one of those places. I went there a few years after they opened (1998) and just hadn't gotten back, until my dinner there last night. And then got to wondering what took me so long. mk is an excellent restaurant, but like many places that have been around for a while, it's often overlooked when the media reports on the newest hot trendy places, so I rarely read about it. Its location, just a few blocks north and west of the big concentration of restaurants in River North, doesn't help, as I don't think I've walked or driven/ridden past it during all those years.
So, what did we eat? Our server noted that the tasting menu was available, and that even if one or more individuals order it, they do NOT require the entire table to do so, which is a welcome policy. I was debating whether or not to order the tasting menu. I asked whether I might be able to order some of the dishes there on an a la carte basis, and he helpfully responded that he could check on whatever dishes I was interested in and he was sure that they could do something - another welcome policy. After further consideration, I decided to order the tasting menu as is while my two companions ordered a la carte. We shared so I tried everything we ordered.
The "BACK TO OUR ROOTS" tasting menu consisted of:
parsnip - cumin scented parsnip soup, medjool dates, guanciale, orange zest, chicory, mint
sweetbreads - sautéed strauss farms veal sweetbreads, salsify puree, escarole, preserved lemon, brown butter
bass - pan seared maryland striped bass, gigante beans, black garlic, ‘nduja sausage, gremolata
bison - braised bison shortribs, potato gnocchi, manchego cheese, marcona almonds, pickled shallot
o’banon - goat’s milk cheese, capriole farms, indiana, fig compote, marcona almonds
chocolate tart - toasted marshmallow, hazelnuts, dried cherries, vanilla ice cream
My companions ordered:
soup - ginger scented fairytale pumpkin soup, toasted coconut, spiced pumpkin seeds, cilantro (2)
octopus - baby octopus grilled over hardwood charcoal, pickled fingerling potatoes, poached baby leeks, burnt red pepper puree, coriander
sea scallops daily special entrée (2)
brussels sprouts side dish
cauliflower side dish
the proof is in the (bread) pudding - brioche bread pudding, pomegranates, candied orange peel, chai tea ice cream
amuse bouche - small slice of seared fish (I forget what kind, sorry)
bread service - baguette, sourdough, rosemary focaccia
mignardises - an orange jelly and a layered chocolate
Everything was very good indeed, not a bad dish in the bunch. I was particularly impressed by the soups, the bass (a thin, slightly crispy fish that I wasn't that familiar with and is not at all like the Patagonian toothfish sold as "Chilean sea bass") and the chocolate tart.
Service was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and flawless. The room was one third to one half full during the three hours we were there (6-9 pm). The noise level was moderate, with music playing at an unobtrusively low level (another welcome policy). On a noise scale from 1 ("dead") to 10 ("I gotta get out of here"), I'd call it a 4, but I'm sure it would be at least somewhat louder when full on a weekend.
This was an excellent dinner. mk is as good as ever. I have to keep it in mind so it doesn't take me as long to get back there. But now I'm also thinking about a lot of other restaurants I've enjoyed over the years and just haven't returned to, so there's that. :)
868 N. Franklin
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