The Vegetarian Option »

Reviews of vegetarian dishes.

The Vegetarian Option: Licorice Salad at Sprout

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[Photograph: Amber Gibson]

The menu at Sprout is purposefully vague. Each option is simply a list of ingredients, with the main flavor in bold. Waiters are happy to provide more description for asked, and the hostess highly recommended the first appetizer on the menu, listed as "strong>licorice." I'm not a big fan of licorice candy, so I was skeptical, but she insisted that this was one of their classic dishes. The other listed components were pear, goat cheese and macadamia, all of which I like, so I gave it a try.

I'm so glad I took a leap of faith, because this salad was spectacular. The "licorice" took the form of shaved fennel and my waiter also shaved licorice root over my salad table side to add to the aroma. Licorice notes hit my tongue at different points, and it was a subtle sensory experience, completely unlike the cloying licorice candy that I hate.

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Something I love about Sprout is how there are several extras thrown in with the three-course prix fixe menu ($65). We start off with an amuse bouche, then have another bite between the appetizer and entrée. The grilled cheese course between the entree and dessert is a hefty portion of greasy cheddar goodness, and you finish off with mignardise. In this sense, the three-course menu almost becomes a seven-course menu. And I didn't even mention the warm Bennison's Bakery bread served with housemade white bean purée.

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My favorite amuse came between the appetizer and entrée because it showcased of-the-moment produce. Spring peas, along with a pea puree and shaved carrots and rhubarb were complemented by crunchy breadcrumbs. I think these little extras allow the chefs room to play, and I enjoyed the element of surprise.

Sprout Restaurant

1417 West Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map)
773-348-0706
sproutrestaurant.com‎

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