Gallery: 8 Rhubarb Dishes We Love in Chicago

Brioche Beignets with Rhubarb-Berry Compote at NoMi ($10)
Brioche Beignets with Rhubarb-Berry Compote at NoMi ($10)

It's no fun when the jelly in a jelly-filled doughnut is too sweet; a ball of sweet fried dough filled with something sweet just doesn't make sense. NoMi's beignets, on the other hand, are filled with an unapologetically tart rhubarb jelly that makes a lot of sense. But for as good as the beignets are, the citrus-chamomile ice cream is the sleeper hit. Combined with a rhubarb-berry compote, it tastes like a fresh take on a dreamsicle.

Nomi Restaurant‎, 800 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-239-4030; hyatt.com

Rhubarb Study at Hot Chocolate ($20)
Rhubarb Study at Hot Chocolate ($20)

One of the many exciting features on the new menu at Hot Chocolate is the "study" dessert, in which the team picks a seasonal ingredient "to reflect upon and handcraft together to present you with an experience in textures and temperatures." This month, the dish features rhubarb in familiar incarnations like the strawberry rhubarb galette, which has the kind of ultra-flaky crust that all pies should aspire to, as well as some less familiar incarnations like the summer-ready miniature gin and rhubarb cocktail. It was a great pleasure to transition from the rhubarb and yogurt sorbets to the warm risotto pudding with poached rhubarb, ginger beer, and rhubarb caramel. But the stand-out of this meditation was the rhubarb cupcake, which had an impeccably airy buttercream and flavorful frambois and rhubarb red velvet cake.

Hot Chocolate‎, 1747 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-489-1747; hotchocolatechicago.com

White Chocolate Mousse with Stewed Rhubarb, Pine Nut Granola, and Saffron at Blackbird ($11)
White Chocolate Mousse with Stewed Rhubarb, Pine Nut Granola, and Saffron at Blackbird ($11)

In case you were wondering, yes, this does taste as complex as it appears. What is not apparent, however, is the tart and liquidy rhubarb geleé hidden within that perfect square of white chocolate mousse, like the highest end version of a molten chocolate cake. Sweet white chocolate is a perfect foil to the natural tartness of rhubarb, and it's surprising the combination didn't show up in any other dishes I tried. Saffron and other earthy, savory flavors brought out the subtle vegetal qualities in the stewed rhubarb.

Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60661 (map); 312-715-0708; blackbirdrestaurant.com

Crispy Canelés with Rhubarb Jam and Chocolate Sauce at Chez Moi ($6)
Crispy Canelés with Rhubarb Jam and Chocolate Sauce at Chez Moi ($6)

The quality of Chez Moi's canelé, one of the most finicky of all French pastries (which is really saying something), is remarkable considering the restaurant just hosted its Grand Opening this past Sunday. Not merely "crispy," the chocolate canelé boast a caramelized crust about as thick and as delightful as the crust on crème brûlée. The interior is similarly impressive: a dense, moist custard/cake hybrid reminiscent of bread pudding. I enjoyed splitting the canelé open, spreading the restrained sweet rhubarb jam on a slice, and dipping the whole bite in the bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Chez Moi‎, 2100 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614 (map); 773-871-2100; chezmoichicago.com

Rhubarbalicious at mk ($11)
Rhubarbalicious at mk ($11)

As a predominantly tart ingredient, rhubarb is usually paired with something sweet. But mk underscores its sourness by teaming it with another tart ingredient: pineapple. The combination works when it's paired with the sweet and warm pineapple brioche pudding and smear of vanilla mascarpone. The rhubarb sorbet is so smooth it's more like ice cream, but the tart flavor helps it retain the refreshing qualities of sorbet. If all components are eaten together, some get lost in the melee of flavors and temperatures. The dessert works best when you toggle between the sorbet and bread pudding, moving back and forth between cool and warm, tart and sweet.

mk, 868 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610 (map); 312-482-9179; mkchicago.com

Rhubarb Doughnuts at Sprout ($6)
Rhubarb Doughnuts at Sprout ($6)

These deconstructed jelly doughnuts are so light that biting through one is almost like biting through barely sweetened air. Serving the nicely tart strawberry rhubarb jelly along side the unfilled doughnuts preserves their delicate texture and is just as delicious as if they were filled.

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

Rhubarb Crumble Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop ($5 a slice)
Rhubarb Crumble Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop ($5 a slice)

The people at Bang Bang Pie Shop don't shy away from rhubarb. Instead they proudly feature it in all of its deep red, tart, and tangy glory in the Rhubarb Crumble Pie. Unlike most pies in which rhubarb is just one of the ingredients, no other fruit is added to the filling to cover up the flavor and texture of the rhubarb. The result is an exploration of the nuanced flavors of rhubarb. There are hints of cranberries and Granny Smith apples, but also a subtle grassy flavor that reminds you of rhubarb's true classification.

Bang Bang Pie Shop, 2051 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-276-8888; bangbangpies.com

Early Rhubarb & Raspberry Blisscakes at M. Henry ($9.25)
Early Rhubarb & Raspberry Blisscakes at M. Henry ($9.25)

M. Henry makes a springtime version of its thick, yet light pancakes that we love with stewed raspberry and rhubarb instead of the usual blackberry. The rhubarb is cooked down to the perfect soft, but not mushy, consistency and is not overly sweetened. The vanilla mascarpone attempting to hide between the two pancakes cuts the tartness of the fruit, and eventually it all combines with the crunchy granola topping into one delicious mess of a breakfast.

M Henry‎, 5707 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60660 (map); 773-561-1600; mhenry.net