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Atelier and Oriole


For the traditional May celebrations, I visited both Atelier and Oriole last week for their spring tasting menus. We're at the very end of ramp season here in the midwest, and excitingly, both resturants managed to incorporate 'em into the menu.


Atelier remains one of my favorite places in Chicago. Their menu slowly changes week-to-week; after about two and a half months, you'll have a totally different meal.

For me, the real stand-out was the walleye crudo with the smoked rhubarb. That's the one with the yellow topping, if you're looking for it in the gallery. And the reason for this is that I hate rhubarb fanatically. This was such a good bite that I now have to revisit rhubarb as an ingredient now. Props to kitchen for that! 👏

The morel & crab was delightful too. Sunchokes don't get used enough, and turning them into chips served next to caviar works really well. And stuffing a morel with crab is just pure fun.

As ever, the drink pairings are on point. The reverse-martini-plus-sake served with the larder interacted differently with everything and was just delightful. I'm going to have to try making this myself!

We didn't splice in any of the non-alcoholic pairings this time, but reading through the menu, I feel like maybe that was a mistake? The NA pairing for the brownie pie is described as cocoa nibs, saigon cinnamon, nitro and I don't know what that could be, but it sure sounds good. And the NA pairing for the jjigae is a rhubarb aperol spritz-type situation, which ALSO sounds like it would have been really exceptional with the dish. Alas!


It's been about a year and a half since visiting Oriole, and I was really curious to see how they've changed.

Coming in, you're still given some tea in the old freight elevator, before being brough over to their bar for your first bite. Then you visit their open kitchen for the amuse bouche -- something they'd kept largely the same -- before finally making it to your table for the rest of the meal. I do like getting the whole tour; it's something a little different. Elske and Alinea are the only other resturants I know of that have incorporated a field trip into dinner.

The amuse bouche is the brioche with foie gras and, this time, some strawberries, topped with gold dust and eaten standing up in the middle of the kitchen. It's a bit messy, but it's exceptionally delicious. I usually want to see new dishes, but I can make an exception here: this was such a stand-out last time that I was hoping we'd see the same thing again, just updated for what's in season -- and Oriole did not disappoint!

They served it with the same rose vermouth as during our first visit. This is still an excellent pairing. When they're pouring it, the bottle they've got looks like it's ancient -- the label has a patina to it. That must just be some showmanship on their part ... I assumed this would be something rare, hard to find, and expensive since it was very distinct. Whose heard of rose vermouth before? Fortunately, it's only about $20 for a bottle -- so I gotta make sure to pick some up!

The wine pairings were all really, really good. This was in my top three for pairings; everything complimented the food exceptionally well. They do stick mostly to technical information when they're pouring the wine -- for me, that's less helpful, because I am a dumbass that doesn't know anything about wine.

Atelier will presenting a narrative about the winemaker, the grapes, or something -- you still get the region/vintage/grapes/other tech info, but the stories are a lot more memorable, and I would have liked to hear more of that.

Also: I am a terrible photographer; I should have gotten a better picture of the bricohe that I could use as a title card for the blog post. But it's hard to remember that sort of thing when you're also trying to get through dinner.

I believe they've just gotten a new pastry chef in recently, and there are some way better photos of the desserts on her profile. Chocolate paired with the smokey & funky flavour of lapsang tea was a really cool idea. I've gotta pick up some cocoa nibs so I can try adding them to a cup of the tea...