Restaurant: MK Restaurant
Location: Chicago, IL
Chef: Erick Simmons
Open: Sun-Thu: 5:30pm - 10:00pm, Fri-Sat: 5:30pm - 11:00pm
Date of Dinner: August 10, 2007
Cost of Dinner: $100
Recommendation: Once is Enough, Although This Was My Second Time (Relatively Speaking)
I was in Chicago on a business trip and there is only one restaurant I wanted to try my one night there: Alinea. But because of poor planning on my part, I was not able to procure a reservation there. So, Bill who was helping me with a reservation in Chicago through American Express Concierge recommended MK Restaurant. Since the only restaurant I really wanted to go isn't available, I acquiesced and threw caution to the wind and agreed.
The MK in the name of the restaurant are the initials of chef/owner Michael Kornick. The kitchen at MK is now manned by Erick Simmons, as Michael Kornick has other restaurants in the Chicago area as well as Las Vegas.
I got a feeling of deja vu as I approached MK Restaurant. I have been here before. As I enter the room, it all came back to me. I was here 4 years ago the last time I was in Chicago, also for a business trip. I don't remember that time, because frankly it (meaning, the meal) really wasn't memorable. Uh-oh!
And then matters got worse when they sat me at a table upstairs at a table facing a blank wall. And being by myself didn't help much since I have to stare onto a blank wall. So now I wait...and wait...and wait, for a waitperson to attend to my table. It was about 10 minutes by the time the waitress came to my table, because the hostess forgot to tell someone that I was there, never mind the fact that I had a reservation. Uh-oh!
At least, she was apologetic when she finally noticed me. And after that, she was also very attentive. Good move!
I get the menu and was caught by sticker shock. Wow! The prices are astronomical for what I think is a very casual restaurant. Yes, there are tablecloths on the table, but the ambiance really is more a feeling of a neighborhood restaurant. None of the main courses is lower than $25 and go all the way up to a $46 steak. Boulevard Restaurant, which I think is head and shoulders above MK, doesn't even have that high a price tag in its menu.
The waitress then says that the summer tasting menu is something that the chef is trying out and has only been on the menu for about 3 weeks. At least, that tasting menu is priced better than the a la carte menu at $79 for 5 courses, or $89 with a cheese course. It was a no-brainer as to which I will get: the 5-course summer tasting menu.
Amuse Bouche 1 (grilled peach topped with goat cheese and shaved fennel) - Apparently, there are 2 amuses bouches that come with dinner. Because it was not included in the degustation menu, I then had the feeling that the 2 amuses bouches were given to all diners at MK. This first amuse bouche was just summer personified with a nice grilled peach half and topped with goat cheese and shaved fennel. Quite tasty!
Amuse Bouche 2 (Oyster with mango vinaigrette) - The second amuse bouche is a raw oyster on the half shell with diced mango and mango vinaigrette. So far so good! I'm starting to forget that I'm staring at a blank wall.
Tuna (raw yellowfin tuna, watermelon, basil seed, ginger, and watermelon broth) - While it was the tuna that is in big print on the menu, it was what messed up this dish. I guess that some sort of watermelon soup is a fad currently in restaurants. Truthfully, the watermelon broth is really good combined with ginger and basil seeds. But the tuna adds absolutely nothing to this dish. The broth pretty much removes the taste of the tuna and so what you get is just the feeling of flavorless cubes of fish in your mouth.
Salmon (olive oil poached atlantic salmon, eggplant puree, braised tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers) - This was my favorite dish. Atlantic salmon was poached in extra virgin olive oil. This results in a very tender and buttery salmon served with eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers. Very, very good!
Quail (texas bobwhite quail grilled over hardwood charcoal, creamed sweet corn, hon shimeji mushroms, scallions, smoked bacon) - I don't know what a Texas Bobwhite quail is and a quick google search soon made me feel guilty about eating this. I just hope that it's not true and the quail really isn't endangered. The course is yummy though, so I guess endangered species are really good! (I kid! I kid!)
Veal (roasted veal tenderloin, israeli couscous, zucchini, mint, squash blossom, red wine sauce) - Squash blossoms and roasted veal in the same dish? All I can say is, "Wow!" The veal tenderloin was roasted to a perfect medium rare and placed on top of big pearls of israeli couscous.
Brown Sugar (warm brown sugar cake, honeyed peaches, honey ice cream, almond streusel) - I found dessert a bit cloying, actually. Brown sugar, honey, streusel. All that sweetness together just was overkill, I thought.
So what's the verdict? Well, it certainly was better than the last time I was there.