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Oriole

West Loop

Beausoleil oyster and jamón Mangalica  Photo: Jeff Marini

My first moment of bliss at Oriole happened 45 minutes into my first visit. An Alaska king crab, arranged into a garden-like tableau, exploded on my tongue with bursts of Cara Cara oranges and coconutty Vidalia onion soup. I closed my eyes, and colors I’d never seen streaked across my mind. A sip of crisp 2014 Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucins Riesling prolonged the euphoria—amplified it, even—before it gracefully faded out. Once-in-a-lifetime fireworks, I thought. But at this four-star jewel stashed on a Fulton Market District side street, I experienced mini-raptures repeatedly.

The setting lights the spark. The 28-seat room, accessed via a freight elevator, casts a luxurious spell, from the wide-open kitchen to an exposed timber ceiling. Servers slip in and out with almost preternatural grace—and happen to be funny and whip-smart, too.

But Oriole’s true genius revolves around the comely and intuitive food from chef-partners Noah Sandoval and Genie Kwon, showcased on an admirably ungimmicky 18-course prix fixe menu ($190). Take the jamón Mangalica. Sandoval prepares the imported Hungarian ham as a consommé in a Beausoleil oyster shell with smoked finger limes, borage, mint, and black pepper. That would be enough for most. But he also slices the jamón microthin, wraps it around a pencil-shaped cracker that’s been dipped in a black pepper gastrique and rolled in candied almond crumble, and then he garnishes the whole thing with eight wonders, including whipped egg yolk and coriander blooms. No tricks. Just imagination, sweat, and an intimate understanding of flavor. “Gimmicks are a crutch,” says Sandoval. “Meatloaf is good. Deconstructed meatloaf is not.”

The same philosophy extends to Kwon’s magnificent desserts, such as a crispy-smooth tuile cylinder encasing a creamy gianduja of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and hazelnut, with caramelized banana chips and hits of lemon sauce and caramelized goat yogurt. Which is to say that at Oriole, you may experience your bliss during this final course. Or during the lovely tea service that follows, which includes cookie rolls filled with tonka bean cream. Or even in the bathroom, where homemade mints await. But you will experience bliss.

READ MORE: Dining Review: Oriole Takes Flight

 

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