Chicago: The Best Thing I Ate This Year (So Far)
"Each pop of salty roe and greedy bite of sweet sea kissed crab flesh dances on your tongue until your brain explodes."
A few weeks ago, while on an anonymous reviewing mission at Avenues restaurant for Chicago Social magazine, I ate one of the best things I've ever eaten. Normally I'd wait for the review to come out, but the seasonal nature of chef Curtis Duffy's food, means this dish might be gone by then, and I wanted people to get a shot at it.
The dish in question is Duffy's King Crab, Steelhead Roe, Kalamansi, and Togaroshi. Though the name comprises a simple four ingredients, the thing is so complex, a hyper-speeded up video of the plating of the dish runs a full minute long.
As a writer, you guide yourself against hyperbole as much as possible but ultimately indulge in it when you can't hold back anymore. This dish is one I can't hold back on. It was as revelatory and ultimately as fun and satisfying as Thomas Keller's Oysters and Pearls and Grant Achatz's Black Truffle Explosion.
The conceit of the dish is that you bust through a sugar crust larded with garnishes like kalamansi orange purée and salty steelhead roe, sending the thing plunging in to a cucumber consommé filled with plump buttery Alaskan king crab chunks.
Intellectually it's almost a metaphor for busting through the ice to get to the springtime bounty of the sea. On a visceral level, it mines the delight of cracking through crust of a creme brulée. Like Oysters and Pearls and Black Truffle, it's also a killer balance of texture and tastes, a rush-inducing one where each pop of salty roe and greedy bite of sweet sea kissed crab flesh dances on your tongue until your brain explodes.
In the Peninsula Hotel
108 E Superior Street, Chicago IL 60611 (b/n North Rush Street and Michigan Avenue; map)