Friday, May 6, 2011

Markethouse

Location: 611 N. Fairbanks
Cost: Around $40 per person without drinks

About four years ago I was in the medical district in a crowded auditorium. The ceremony going on was for the donning of white coats for the UIC med school class of 2011. The highlight of this was watching everyone put on their white coats for the first time, thus symbolizing their entrance into the medical profession. The best part of this was when one kid (who may or may not have been in the AEPi class of 2007) tried to put on his coat without first undoing the buttons. It was quite the fiasco that almost ended in a torn coat / Tommy Boy type of scenario. The other highlights focused around celebrating with my sister. After four years of hard work she is now graduating from medical school, and another celebration is in order. A big chunk of the family came in town, and the party officially started with dinner last night.

My Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harry were staying in the Double Tree in Streeterville, and conveniently Lisa and I met them at the hotel restaurant, Markethouse.

Logistics
I'd walked by here a thousand times, and it always seems pretty empty. Our reservation was at 6:30 PM, but we definitely didn't need it. On one hand it was nice and quiet, but on the other hand it was a bit odd to have so few other people in the restaurant. By 8 PM though the business traveler crowd staying at the hotel filtered in, and the restaurant had a bit of a buzz going.

The service was excellent except for some difficulty opening wine bottles. However, since the waiter put up with the "playful" ribbing from my uncle, I think he earned a good review. The cost seemed pretty reasonable for the quality of the restaurant. Appetizers were $8-10, entrees were $15-30, and desserts were $7. Interestingly enough, I think the $15 entrees were much better than the $30 ones, but I'll get to that in a bit.

The Food
I first need to comment on the wine. My aunt and uncle (as far as I'm concerned) are the be-all end-all when it comes to opinions on wine. Uncle Harry described our wine as "better than chateau indifferent, but nothing special." It didn't stop us from getting multiple bottles of a Chianti Classico though. After figuring out the wine we went for the Hummus, Pate Platter, and Beer and Cheese Soup for appetizers. The Hummus itself was a little bland, but it was topped with red peppers, pine nuts, and cucumbers. It was also served with a delicious flat bread that reminded me of a crispier version of what they serve at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. The Pate plate was just alright. I would've liked something sweet to balance things out and possibly more pieces of bread. That reminds me, they had fantastic bread on the table. They change it up daily, and ours had some kind of sweet potato presence. The table also got an order of pickled onions, cauliflower, and cucumber. After eating a bunch of these and the pate, I was somewhat "oversalted." Finally, the Beer and Cheese Soup was thick, creamy, and served with pumpernickel pop corn providing an interesting texture. I think I prefer the one Chaz Anderson served in the beer cooking combat I judged at the Kenmore Live Studio a few weeks back.

The Pickles

The Hummus

The Pate Platter

The Beer and Cheese Soup

For our mains my aunt got the Rainbow Trout, I got the Halibut, and my sister and uncle got the Chicken Pot Pie. The trout came with wild rice and a few pieces of duck (too few), but seemed properly prepared. My halibut was cooked nicely with a crispy exterior sear and flaky inside. It was kind of a small portion for a $30 dish. It was served over a bed of vegetables and blood oranges that were cut a bit too small to discern from one another. There was also some foam on top that I couldn't figure out and some really unappetizing sauce that luckily came on the side. Lisa and Uncle Harry seemed to have it right with the pot pie. It had a flaky, light, and puffy dough with a rich filling. It's definitely what I'd order on a return visit, and it was way cheaper than most other things on the menu.

The Rainbow Trout

The Chicken Pot Pie

 The Alaskan Halibut

Somehow we found room to get the Molten Chocolate Cake, Butterscotch Bread Pudding, and Meyer Lemon Pound Cake for dessert. The cake came a la mode and matched well with most other molten cakes I've had in the past. The pound cake was a bit too dense but had a nice compote and ice cream on its side. The butterscotch bread pudding was the last and best part of the meal. It had a moist and sweet quality that topped any previous bread pudding I'd eaten. The ice cream and butterscotch sauce did an excellent job complementing the bread pudding as well. I absolutely loved it.

The Meyer Lemon Pound Cake

The Butterscotch Bread Pudding

The Molten Chocolate Cake

Overall
Markethouse is all about being farm to table and sustainable, but a lot of their food ships from California (huh?). That aside they had some really great dishes (bread pudding and pot pie) but some rather underwhelming ones as well. My advice is to strictly follow what they call their signature dishes. The meatloaf definitely deserves a try in that respect. Still with the other dishes I'd say it ends up at about average. I'm giving Markethouse 2.5 Pearls.


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