Wine & Travel

Snooth User: JonDerry

Two Days in Chicago

Posted by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

Here for business, but finding the time to work in some wine escapades. Last year I met several Chicago wine people at a Burgundy tasting, and earlier this year some more at La Paulee. So on short notice I decided to let them all know I was coming to town, and luckily I got a good tip on an excellent restaurant near my hotel, Nico Osteria. Have lunch set up for tomorrow, but had to check it out tonight in advance. 

The ambiance, open kitchen, service, and wine list set this place apart right away. Not exactly feeling 100% after dealing with airports and planes most of the day, I had bubles on my mind. Being a recent Lambrusco convert, I thought what better place to try than a hip Italian Restaurant.

Pictured above the WTB (By the glass list) you can see the Lambrusco and Brussel Sprouts, both were sublime. The Lambrusco had good freshness and fruitful energy, medium plus bubbles, but it's Lambrusco afterall, and this was the Grasparossa Barbolini "Lancillato". Grasparossa's are one of the main types of Lambrusco, sometimes Masculine, I found this somewhere between dry and off-dry, just a little bit of sweetness which was appreciated. The purple fruit was fresh, mostly plum, somewhat grapy, but not cloyingly so. There's also a dustiness, and earthiness to it which only adds to the experience, but mainly it's a wine to enjoy and drink.

Browsing the wine list, I noticed it was clearly an Italian, and Northern Italian wine list first. But second to Italian wines, I was expecting to find an emphasis on French or American wines, but no, here the Greek wines get some love (as I was reminded of the Greek - Chicago connection from many years back visiting, and noticing many Greek restaurants), and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try my first decent glass of Greece, Xinomavro at that. Landed on this wine as it had a few years in bottle as opposed to some other more recent vintages.

While the nose was clearly firm, it was giving off a very nice perfume, not unlike a nice Nebbiolo from Piedmont. Rose petals, spice, and wild, but reticent dark red fruits. The palate confirms that this is on the more elegant side, light to medium in body and tannin, though it has plenty of acidic freshness and wiry, (drying) tannins, making it a great pair with the meat Rigatoni it was paired with. In the end I was happy with the wine, still squarely in its primary phase, it had opened enough to show its stuff, and found at least moderate complexity, which will be encouraging more exploration.

Looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 25, 2015.

So twice at the same place in two days, eh? Should say hi to management...

I'd noticed that Greek sparkling, too.

"Great Sushi" ??? From the TripAdvisor lead review. Am guessing this was Italianate seasoned crudo, not sashimi on vinegared rice with wasabi??!

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Reply by MJET, Oct 25, 2015.

I've been to Chicago for business almost every year for the last 15 years. A lot of great restaurants to experience...... So l'm with DM... Same place twice in two days???

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

If this restaurant were near me, I'd be going a lot. There's nothing I've seen like it in LA, though they have places of this ilk, the cost would be double at least. Not to say it's cheap, but you can skate around without too heavy a pinch.

They are definitely seafood/fish centric, with meat dishes taking a bit of a back seat. I imagine the fish is coming from all over, but would hope the great lakes supply the Salmon, among other things.

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

MJET, this place is two blocks from my hotel, and after tonight, it's a place I'll be going back to hopefully more than just tomorrow.

Any restaurants you recommend?

I've been here a few times myself and can't recall anything very special. Went to BOKA last year which was supposed to be great, but I thought the portions were small and forgettable, with average service.

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Reply by MJET, Oct 25, 2015.

Where are you staying and what type of food do you prefer? 

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

I'm at Waldorf Astoria. I do well with European styled or inspired restaurants with good wine (European Represented) lists.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 25, 2015.

One thing you do have to do in Chicago, JD, is find a 'favorite' steak joint.

And dream on about the Great Lakes salmon...  ;-(

BTW, what's the water quality like in each of the Great Lakes these days?

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Reply by MJET, Oct 25, 2015.

Look this place up:

http://www.disottoenoteca.com

 

BTW:

Best steak I have ever had was at the Chicago Chop House. Pretty good wine list as well.

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

Haha, I suppose I'll have to ask them tomorrow where they source their Salmon, or if they source any fish from the great lakes. I really have no idea as what the water quality is, I'll ask around, though I suppose the folks over here treat certain parts of it as a beach of sorts.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

Beaches not an issue. Decades of industrial effluent discharges still are, last I heard anyway.

Do suggest you ask to meet management (whatever they call their owner, their maitre d', their manager, their chief chef, even their chief somm). Will pay off when you visit in future.

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Reply by EMark, Oct 26, 2015.

Terrific report, Jon.  I look forward to updates.  It's been quite a few years since I've been to Chicago, but I always felt that it was an awesome restaurant town.  I've been away too many years to make a recommendation although I know that Mrs. EMark gives Topolobamba two thumbs up.  (I wasn't with her on that trip.)

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Reply by dvogler, Oct 26, 2015.

Nice Jon.  It would be nice to be able to try all the great restaurants, but there's nothing wrong with going back to one that checks all your boxes, especially a short walk.  At least you don't drink the same wine or go to the same city and listen to the same music.  I'd say you have plenty of variety going on!

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 26, 2015.

Nico Part 2.

Real nice lunch with a new friend. Went with the brussel sprouts again, some Tuna recommended by the waiter, and some Hangar steak, which was really good. The fish did not have much flavor, but once again it was excellent food in a great setting. I didn't get a chance to ask about the fish sources, though my Chicago native friend thought it was unlikely that any great lakes Salmon made it on to the menu.

The wines were a bit too young, as expected. I had visions of a Jadot '96 Chambertin from a shop about a half hour away (HDH), and supposedly they could deliver it to me. However, that was clearly too tight of a window with them closed over the weekend, there wasn't enough time as their storage facility is separate, etc. So I had to do with standard retail (Binny's), and their cellar did not have anything older than 2010, so 2010 it was. Friend brought a 2005 Mugnier Clos de Marechale, while not my favorite Burgundy vineyard, it's still no slouch. Actually I had this wine out of 375 about a year ago it seems. Out of 750, the nose is starting to open, but it's not giving up much on the palate, rather closed. The 2010 Mazis was in a better mood, there was more fruit concentration and density on the palate with good spice and drive, acting like a good young Grand Cru, but will improve over the next decade or so. Off to another restaurant, solo this time.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

Tuna dishes are a conundrum, really, if restaurants are serious about flavor and not just what's au courant.

Was worried about those bottles in the photo at a restaurant I knew to be seafood, before I read your post. Nothing worse for me than a tightly wound and immature, stemmy burgundy massacring delicate fish flavors.

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Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 26, 2015.

I don't remember business trips like this.  Looks like a vacation from my perspective!

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 26, 2015.

Maybe a mini vacation with some work inbetween? It sure feels that way but the little bit of work is very important, so it passes. One of life's better days, as dinner may be the highlight. Mr. Mazy is opening up, getting on with the wait staff, and I have duck and foie gras to go with it.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

"I don't remember business trips like this.  Looks like a vacation from my perspective!"

Are you proud to admit that, Al?

I almost always took a day or two before and after my longer trips, to explore and enjoy the area, as well as eating and drinking well every night, and usually lunches, too. This was all across North America, Europe and lots of Asia/Oceania. Since I was my own boss that wasn't too difficult, but of course I had clients with me many times who tended all too often to seem like bosses themselves. I was good at shaming them into hosting plenty of dinners at restaurants of my choosing, though (very easy to get Japanese clients to do this since food and drink are such an important part of their culture, and they never suffered from the handicap of a Puritanical tradition). Not a bad way to get revenge--that and a hefty invoice at the end of projects.   ;-)

Somehow effective business managed to get done and productive deals made. And the local enjoyment helped a lot with decompressing from some pretty intense deals.

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Reply by dvogler, Oct 26, 2015.

So DM, after all that freedom why do you not make it out of Japan more often?

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

A different era, with different responsibilities. Seriously tied down here now.

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 26, 2015.

Knowing some of the background, it's not an easy thing. I'm sure he'll be back when it makes sense for him. Our time, or my time on this site has been a rather small five years or so after all.

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