I've always had a soft spot for restaurant weeks. They remind me of the sheer number of options in the city, and to head out and try new restaurants. Since moving to Illinois, we've barely tested the Chicago restaurant scene. Chicago Restaurant Week was as good of an excuse as we could get to catch up with friends and try a new place - multitasking sometimes works after all.
Our friends suggested we try Appellation because, wine. Appellation is a small wine bar attached to a cheese/wine/bread shop that serves food almost as an after-thought. However, it was cosy and inviting and had good reviews and seemed worth checking out.
To kick things off, we each had a glass of Processo.
I didn't get the name of the wine, but it was crisp and refreshing - a perfect way to start. While the special dinner menu already consisted of an entree, main and dessert (or appetiser, entree and dessert if you're speaking American), we unanimously agreed that a charcuterie board was required.
On the board: housemade chicken liver mouse, duck rilette, coppa, dodge city salami, salami manzo. First impressions were that the board was nicely varied, with different flavours and textures, from creamy to crunchy, and silky with fat to sharply salty. Second impressions were that the bread was much too hard. Almost painfully so, which was the only disappointment for an otherwise solid dish.
Onto the 'real' first course. There were 3 options; a mac and cheese, brussels sprouts, and a winter salad. No one particularly felt like a salad, and in-fact, 3/4 of the table chose the mac and cheese (I was the odd one out given my rocky relationship with dairy).
|Seasonal Mac and Cheese with Duck Confit and Roasted Kale|
Who could blame them though .Mac and cheese is comfort food at its finest. More cheese than mac, with plenty of cream and just enough flavour to keep it from feeling overwhelming, this was a decent dish. Heavy, but satisfying.
|Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Chermoula, Pickled Raisin and Essex Feta|
I did enjoy my Brussels sprouts more, but I'm a little strange like that. A combination of crisp sprouts, with sweetness from the carrots and raisins, and a little tangy-ness from the feta made this a well-balanced dish. One that I could see myself trying to recreate at home actually.
After the lovely first course and a modest wait, it was onto the main meal. We ordered all three options between us.
The hanger steak dish was a disappointment unfortunately.
|Hanger Steak with Bernaise Butter and Frites|
Cold, dry and tasteless, I felt much happier with the fries than with the steak itself. I can understand it being difficult to time 4 dishes to come out at the same time, but I expected better.
The fish dish looked much better executed.
|Sauteed Fish with Cauliflower Fennel Puree, Hazelnut Caper Brown B|
This was not without it's issues, given the original dish was to be prepared with skate, but the kitchen ran out and so was replaced with halibut (if my memory serves me correctly). While I didn't taste the dish, it smelt good and appeared to be better cooked than the steak dish.
The final offering was a cheese fondue.
|Fondue of Raclette and Hittisau served with Baguette and Cornichons|
I'm not sure how M wasn't completely cheesed-out after the mac and cheese followed by this, but he enjoyed his choice. I personally would have preferred more cheese, less wine in this but it was definitely tasty (in small doses).
And then onto more cheese for dessert! Well, not for M (maybe he was cheese-ed out).
|Restaurant Week Cheese Plate|
A decent selection, some nice accompaniments, and thankfully soft bread. Nothing spectacular, but not a disappointment either.
Option 2 was a winter Panna Cotta. Sweet and simple.
|Winter Panna Cotta|
Option 3 (my choice) was a chocolate pudding.
|Chocolate Pudding with Orange Blossom with Whipped Cream and Pistachios|
A light-weight dessert, the pistachios lent a nice salty contrast to the velvety, not-to-sweet chocolate pudding. I could have done without the whipped cream but each to their own.
Overall thoughts on Appellation: good service and a cosy atmosphere in a simple, somewhat rustic setting. Wine selection is extensive, and product is good, although execution can sometimes be lacking. Perhaps this is more of a place for wine and bar snacks rather than a sit-down dinner. I'm glad we went and tried it though.
5212 North Clark Street, IL 60640
Mon-Thu 4pm - 12 midnight, Fri/Sat 4pm - 1am, Sun 4pm-11pm