I can’t drive anywhere right now without being distracted by the colors of fall. The pictures the trees are painting with their vibrant colors are inspiring and take my breath away. Everywhere I go, trees are on my mind and I feel like I have tunnel vision.
So when I was invited to go to the “soft-opening” of Oak + Char (217 West Huron), I was intrigued. (Get it, there is a type of TREE in the name! My segues are almost as inspiring as fall colors, right?)
Actually the “Oak” of the name comes from bits of oak every where in the restaurant from the beautiful tables to alcohol touched by oak barrels to the oak aged wood burning flame. And the “Char” is their goal to make the restaurant look a little aged and rustic.
I found the use of the oak made it very warm and inviting. The kind of place you want to meet up with friends and visit.
Since the restaurant is not technically open yet, I didn’t know what to expect food wise but I did know that Chef Joe Heppe would come up with a menu that was as colorful as an autumn’s day. (I don’t have an opening date so please Call 312-643-2427 to make your reservations.)
The Oak + Char menu was a cornucopia of different ethnic flavors mixed with classic favorites that show the wonderful melting pot the Midwest has become over the years.
We started with a couple of Snacks. Everyone at the table loved the Warm Burrata, Eggplant Muhammara and Naan. It was like pizza with an Indian flair.
I also enjoyed the Pork Trotter Spring Rolls. The lime tahini sauce was one of those things you keep dipping your fork in to get another taste. It was a nice balance of nuttiness, tart and a little heat.
The Small Plates menu is outstanding. It was hard to make choices because everything looks so creative and delicious. My favorites were the Beef Tartare and the Ravioli Doppio.
The Beef Tartare was served with the housemade chips that were the perfect seasoned vehicle to eat with the tartare. I could have eaten that whole plate myself! Everything from the uni aioli to the pickled pears and mustard seeds made this dish a must have in my book.
The other table favorite was the Ravioli. (My picture doesn’t do it justice.) What a wonderful combination of celery root and wild mushrooms in such delicate pasta! I also adored the truffle fondue and brown butter that was swirled about the ravioli because they added just the right touch of umami and nuttiness.
Our table also shared the Apple Pomegranate Salad (very light and refreshing) and the cold Smoked Oysters. (I’m not sure if I ate the oysters correctly, I made a mess so they weren’t necessarily one of my favorites.)
The play on Schnitzel by using Skate was really good. The coating on the fish didn’t weight it down as one might imagine and I liked that there was also some country ham still on the plate.
I think my least favorite dish of the night was the Cheeseburger mostly because everything else was so exciting that the Cheeseburger paled in comparison. It would be a nice to go-to on the menu for the less adventurous eaters in your group. (The pickles were excellent and I would have ordered a plate of those alone.)
We ended our night sharing some of the Sweet Potato Doughnuts with maple foie syrup and chai milk jam and the Tcho Chocolate Pot de Crème with Pistachio Amaretti Cookies.
I wasn’t able to taste the Pot de Crème (chocolate allergy) but the folks at my table loved it especially with the chewy cookie. I indulged in the doughnuts and liked the syrup so much that I swirled some in my coffee! YUM!
As my reader’s know, I am not a drinker but Oak + Char is going to have an amazing beverage service headed up by Mae Governale. If the non-alcoholic Ginger Fizz they made me is any representation of the bar service, there are going to be some fun drinks coming your way.
Thank you to Chef Joe Heppe for inviting us to see the majestic launch of his new cooking adventure. And Thank You to everyone at Oak + Char for being such great hosts, we look forward to coming back.
I hope Oak + Char will have strong roots and a long colorful future on the streets of Chicago.
Celery root and mushroom sound like a heavenly combination. What a creative menu!
I am going to try mimicking it soon!!