Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Signature Room

As the summer started winding down, my last week in lab crept closer and closer. As I've mentioned before in many posts, going out to lunch as a lab had become somewhat of a weekly activity. Accordingly, we thought we should do something special for our last lunch. As we debated over where to go, an advertisement came on the radio for an all you can eat lunch buffet at The Signature Room. We decided this would be a perfect place to end our summer lunch tradition.

Logistics
The Signature Room is on the 95th floor of the Hancock Center. Interestingly enough, the observation deck is on the 94th floor and costs money to go to. If you go to the restaurant there's no charge for the trip up, and the view is spectacular. As far as the trip up, I've never been in a faster elevator (all 95 floors in under 50 seconds), but that means your ears are going to pop (bring gum). There is a ton of seating near the windows, and we got sat at a corner so we could see out onto the lake and very far north as well.


The lunch special we went to was for an all you can eat buffet for $15 including soft drinks. Normally it costs $20 and drinks are $3.50, so this was a pretty good special. Unfortunately, the special only lasts until the end of August. We made a reservation, and I think it was a requirement as well.


Most people go for the view alone, so anything on top of that was just a bonus. The service was pretty great, and our waiter was very knowledgeable about the food and the restaurant's history. I really liked that our host's name was Arif (same name as a friend of mine from med school). For those of you that know med school Arif, you would've gotten a real kick out of the outfit the host was wearing and how similar it was to something our Arif might wear. He was very well dressed in what I can only hope was a Brooks Brothers outfit with a Burberry tie.


For a buffet they had all of the important logistical factors covered. They kept the food full and hot, and they did a good job of clearing the dirty plates from our table. I think they could've done a little better job with the drink refills, but overall the service was great.

  
The Food
The buffet was broken down into a soup/salad table, an entree table, and a carving station. I tried everything, so I'll break down the meal by table. The soups were Minestrone and Cream of Mushroom. The Cream of Mushroom was very creamy and had an emulsion like texture to it. The Minestrone was loaded with veggies, and the beans weren't too much like they can often be. For salads they had Chilled Grilled Zucchini, Cauliflower Salad, some kind of Cabbage Coleslaw, and a Mixed Green Salad. The coleslaw was probably my favorite with a dressing that was well balanced with spices and not too loaded with mayo. The Zucchini and Mixed Greens Salad were very crisp and a nice light start to the meal. The Cauliflower Salad was pretty bland though and left me dissatisfied.

 Plate from the Salad Table

 The Minestrone Soup

At the entree table they had Roasted Chicken Thighs, Tilapia with a Cream Sauce, Summer Squash, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes. The Chicken Thighs were delicious with a nice crisp to the skin and an incredible juiciness. The Summer Squash had lost its texture a little bit and was a little too much on the mushy side. The Tilapia had a very tasty sauce, but it was a little overcooked. I think it was probably cooked properly, but it's really hard to keep a good texture on fish when it's on a buffet dish. That being said, I went back for seconds of most everything on this table besides the tilapia. The Mashed Sweet Potatoes were really creamy and still had a bunch of chunks giving it somewhat of a rustic taste. They were probably my next favorite thing to the chicken.

 Plate from the Entree Table

The last part of the buffet was the carving station. The meat of the day was Roasted Brisket. It was very tender and had a nice savory taste to it. The brisket could have definitely been leaner though, but I assume it's easier to serve a fattier brisket on a buffet so that it doesn't dry out too much. The real highlight here was the mustard bbq sauce that came on the side. Basically I put that on everything the second time around. It was out of this world delicious. At one point when I was putting it on my plate, I think the lady at the carving station was going to offer me a bowl for the side or a bigger ladle.

Overall
You can go to the Signature Room for much more than their lunch buffet. It's an excellent place to go on a date or take people to a business meal. Either way, with the quality of food and the amazing view it's a great way to have a nice meal and show someone Chicago. It's the tallest restaurant in North America, and it's pretty impressive on the inside. It's nice that they have a casual dress code and atmosphere for lunch. Normally this place would be a little too rich for my blood, but with the lunch special it was nice to try out. The food was very tasty, and the only problem was that I couldn't move to walk back to work after eating so many plates of food. I'm giving the Signature Room 4 out of 5 Pearls.



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