Beatrix, Chicago, November 2016

It was the Sunday after (American) Thanksgiving and Valeria and I had been crazy busy for several days. While our actual Thanksgiving celebration was small, we did a lot of Christmas decorating, Christmas shopping and caught up on a lot of chores over the long weekend. By Sunday night we (meaning me) just did not feel like cooking dinner. I love to cook and usually enjoy making dinner even after a long day, but not that night. So we made a reservation at the Streeterville Beatrix location, a new casual favorite that I have already written about a couple of times here and here. I took my camera along out of habit. Since I have the photos, I’ll do a quick report on what we ate and drank on this trip. Long story short: we once again enjoyed a well made, delicious meal and very pleasant service.

We started with drinks (very original, I know). Valeria chose a healthy, non-alcoholic one called a Blueberry & Basil Smash, while I chose an old-fashioned Whiskey Sour.

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Beatrix takes pride in their fresh-squeezed juice program and for good reason. They pull together some very flavorful mixtures of juices and herbs. They turn some of these same juices into adult cocktails by the addition of judiciously selected alcoholic beverages as well. The Blueberry & Basil Smash was a perfect example: plenty of fresh fruit and herb flavor in  a “virgin” cocktail.

Whiskey Sours are a classic cocktail that is, in principle, easy to make but is also easy to mess up. All you need is a decent whiskey (almost any kind will do: rye, bourbon, Canadian, Irish…) some fresh lemon juice (fresh is the key word) a little sweetener (simple syrup—a 50/50 solution of sugar in water—is perfect) and a dash of bitters. Shake it with ice, garnish with a slice of lemon and you’re good to go.

Historically, there was one more ingredient in a whiskey sour: an egg white. This is still used today in a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru and Chile. (Pisco is a brandy distilled from grapes.) When I make a whiskey sour at home, I often add an egg white and shake up the mixture before adding the ice. This gives the cocktail a bit of a head and a creamier texture. For a more detailed explanation of the cocktail, here is Robert Hess, who wrote the book (or at least a book) on how to make cocktails.

 

 

The Beatrix Whiskey Sour was very good. Old Overholt is a good rye whiskey (but you would not want to use your very best whiskey for a sour—they should be sipped) The sweet/sour balance was spot on. They did not add an egg white, but that is really the standard these days.

We needed some starters to go with our drinks, so we ordered Tsukune with Chili-Cilantro Sauce and Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. 

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We ordered the Tsukune the last time we were there, so let me just repeat what I wrote then: If you enjoy Japanese food you may well know yakitori, chicken pieces that have been put on skewers and grilled with a sauce that includes mirin (a sweetened, usually low alcohol, rice wine), sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Tsukune is a variation in which the chicken is ground and formed into meatballs before being skewered and grilled. The Beatrix version is utterly delicious. The chicken is tender and juicy and the spicy, sweet, salty and complex sauce is addictive. Obviously this is an easy plate to share, but order one of your own. They are that good.

Butternut squash and fresh apples are two reasons why fall is a wonderful season. Put the two of them together in soup, toss on some toasted pumpkin seeds for flavor and texture, and you’re good. This was a vegan soup, I believe, for those of you who look for those selections.

We had been trying to eat fairly light over the holidays, but it was a cold night and when I saw braised short ribs on the menu I caved.

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The ribs were meltingly tender with enough citrus and chili to add some nice flavor and a little kick, but still let the beef flavor come through. Since it was served on cauliflower purée and not mashed potatoes, it was health food, right? Beatrix likes to take classic dishes and lighten them up, usually with the creative use of vegetables, without loosing the essential character of the dish. Try their meatloaf sometime to see what I mean.

Valeria’s choice, as is often the case, was lighter and healthier from the start: Pan-roasted Chilean Sea Bass, Tuscan Kale, Freekah, Fresno Chili, Miso Broth.

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First, I will confess I had no idea what freekah was. It turns out to be another super grain, like quinoa, teff and bulgar. It is actually wheat that is picked while it is still green. It is first roasted over an open fire, then the stalks and husks are burned off leaving just the kernel, which, if you do this carefully, is too moist to burn. Instead, the remaining grain takes on a nutty, smoky character. It reminds me a bit of the process of roasting and smoking barley for Scotch. I wonder if anyone has tried to ferment and distill freekah? Probably not, because it is mostly popular in the Middle East. But I digress.

In this dish, freekah (or farik) adds a litle flavor and texture but is a supporting player. The sea bass itself was the star, cooked medium on the inside and nicely browned on the outside. This miso broth and kale added some flavor and texture, but not enough to overpower the fish. The slices of fresh Fresno chili did pack a little heat, but it was complementary, too.

That was our whole meal and again we enjoyed it very much. Relatively light, good flavors and textures and nice drinks. 

Beatrix – River North
Address: 519 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: (312) 284-1377
Reservations: opentable.com
Website: http://beatrixchicago.com

Dress Code: Casual Elegant
Price Range: $30 and under
Hours: Lunch & Dinner
M-Th 11:30am-10:00pm
Fri-Sat 2:00pm-11:00pm
Sun 2:00pm-9:00pm

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Beatrix – Streeterville
Address: 671 N. Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 642-0001
Reservations: opentable.com
Website: http://www.beatrixchicago.com/

Dress Code: Casual Elegant
Price Range: $30 and under
Hours: Breakfast: Mon-Fri 7am-11am
Brunch: Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am-4pm
Dinner: Sun 4pm-9pm
Mon-Thu 4pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 4pm-11pm

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The author is a member of the Amazon Affiliate program but otherwise has no affiliation with any of the businesses or products described in this article.

All images were taken with a Sony Alpha a6300 camera and a Sony-Zeiss SEL1670Z Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm (24-105mm full frame equivalent) F/4 ZA OSS lens or Sony 35mm (52mm full frame equivalent) F/1.8 E-Mount Lens using ambient light. Post-processing in Adobe Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop® with Nik/Google plugins. 

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