I have been a big fan of Chef Paul Virant’s cooking for a while. I have been to Vie in Western Springs a few times, but the drive from the city is a huge deterrent for more visits. I was so excited when I heard that he will be taking over Perennial here in Lincoln Park!
I cajoled 2 of my friends (didn’t take that much arm twisting!) to joining me for dinner last Friday. I arrived early and settled down to a cocktail. My choice was TBD which the menu says has Zubrowka Vodka, blueberry aigre-doux, ginger beer and vanilla essence. I am a sucker for ginger beer, but the blueberries stole the show. They have been canned in-house from last year and were slightly soft and sweet. I could have had a bowl of these (which I came close to having later).
The lounge area sits about 10-15 people comfortably, and I noticed a few people having a quick dinner. Couches are comfortable and the mismatched chairs were very cute. Huge windows allowed for good light, but I am looking forward to when the scaffolding outside is removed!
My party arrives, I settle up at the lounge and move to the dining room. One touch I particularly like is that a server came over and moved my drink to my table for me. A little gesture, but it was a very classy move.
The menu can be done 2 ways: a seasonal prix fixe and dishes to share. There is a 3 course menu for $37, where you can choose between 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 1 standard dessert. Or you can order off the menu (including the prix fixe one) and share with your table. We opted for the latter.
Bar Snacks consisted of a generous portion of crispy tuscan kale, spicy corn nuts and 2 halves of creamy deviled eggs. I never knew deviled eggs could be so light. Crispy kale leaves were light, though the pieces at the bottom of the bowl were soaked with oil and limp, but still delicious. The corn nuts were slightly spicy, and as you munch, the heat slowly builds but never overwhelmed. My only regret? Not taking the time to savor the egg.
Also from the prix fixe menu, the Confit of Pork Shoulder was served with greens, spring vegetable giardiniera and pork jus. The giardiniera (made in house) was nicely tangy, the greens had a lovely bitterness. The pork shoulder was shredded and then formed into a patty and crisped up. Porky, salty, crispy bits went very well with the tanginess of the giardiniera.
Herb Parisienne Gnocchi was served with spring vegetable ragout, parmigano-reggiano and pesto. Delicious, soft, melt in the mouth pillows of goodness, fresh peas, butter… need I say more?
Grilled Strip Steak was paired with smoked spring onion relish, worchestershire mushroom conserva. The mushrooms had a lightly pickled quality which complemented the rich meatiness of the steak. Perfectly medium rare, the steak was tender and well seasoned.
Remember the blueberries from my cocktail? Well we had a mound of it on the Seedling Farms Preserved Blueberry Tart with almond frangipane and sheep cheese gelato. Lovely flaky crust, sweet juicy blueberries. The gelato was nice, but was just getting between me and those blueberries.
The Butter Pound Cake on the prix fixe menu was served with vanilla toffee and butter hickory nuts and a scoop of toasted milk ice cream. That ice cream was a revelation. How does one toast milk? I don’t know but I want to hug whoever invented this. There is an irresistible maltiness to the ice cream that appeals to me.
Dinner with drinks for 3 people ended up being $180 before tip. Service was excellent. Our server, Ryan, was perfect. Friendly and honest, he was ready to tell us to stop ordering too much food. Chef Virant’s restaurants has the best front of house staff I have ever seen. From the friendly smiles and hellos the second I walk in wearing my scruffy jeans, sweater and slightly muddy sneakers, to the gracious server who escorted my half finished drink to my table, to the wittiness of Ryan playing off the personalities at my table.
Perennial Virant is a gem… and I am proud to have them in Lincoln Park and only a bus ride away from my door!
1800 N. Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL, 60614-5812
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday Dinner: 5-10 p.m. daily