EATALY Chicago Opening!
After months of anticipation, EATALY finally opened in Chicago Monday evening. So naturally, I had to go to check out this 63,000 sq. ft. Italian paradise filled with pretty much all the Italian foods and drinks you can think of.
Walking in, I was immediately overwhelmed with all the different ingredients on the shelves, the cookbooks piled higher than my arm can reach, desserts left and right, and a number of enticing restaurants to choose from. So, of course, I beeline for the desserts and start spooning some of the silkiest panna cotta into my mouth.
We wandered upstairs for some drinks and more importantly, substantial foods. That's how we wandered into Birreria, Eataly's brew pub for a couple drinks.
This is also where I learned to stay away from Italian beers... The Baladin Wayan was pretty flavorless while the $18 Del Borgo Maledetta was not worth the price. And I had a third Italian beverage, the Del Borgo Rubus Lamponi, a fruit ale with suditrol raspberries. I was expecting a sweeter drink (something like a lambic) but instead it was a bitter, unappetizing ale.
I think the one thing most people like about EATALY is the rotisserie. We stopped by, but unfortunately, they only sell their specialty sandwiches before 5 pm. So we resorted to purchasing prime rib by the pound. Maybe we were really hungry, but this is some of the best prime rib I've had in Chicago (but this one slice also cost $16).
For our actual dinner, we decided on La Carne. To our surprise, there wasn't even a wait! We sat down to a bread service of just 2 slices for the three of us... so we asked for more. At least the olive oil for dipping was superb! And then came the tartare. WOW. The use of Piemontese beef makes a complete difference as it is very lean, which elevates its texture in a raw state.
Since this particular restaurant is all about meat, we decided on a salad. With pig trotters. I was a bit surprised that the flavors really meshed well together. I guess in the future I'll have to remember that pig trotters are a salad's best friend.
Looking at this quail, you'd think the meat may be a bit tough, but biting into it, the pieces literally break off in delicate slices. I've had my fair share of quail, but this one is definitely at the top of that list.
Oh what a disappointment! This pork loin was as dry as uncooked pasta. They should have boiled it a bit before grilling it directly. In any case, the fennel cream was a redeeming quality in this dish (it's great for dipping bread).
I love brussel sprouts. And I love them with some bacon. So this was right up my alley. As a result, I devoured them (not to mention I was actually in need of some greens at this point).
I think I need to mention how kind the wait staff was at La Carne (and I'm pretty sure it goes for all the other restaurants in Eataly). Despite the number of customers and busy atmosphere, the waiters and waitresses always spend the time to chat and discuss the menu choices.
We almost had to pass on this dish because Boping, who was with us, played a little trick on me. He went out to feed the meter, and it was taking him an obscenely long time, and this dish came out right after he left. So we were waiting and waiting... And we explained to the waitress, who kindly kept it heated up for us. Then Boping notifies me that his car had been towed (and this is not the first time his car had been towed when I was with him)!!! As descent friends, Andrew and I were about to leave to go get Boping's car back with him, but our waitress convinced us to sit put and eat the calf liver. Thankfully we stayed because Boping was just kidding, and I was able to try this calf liver that melted in my mouth, leaving me begging for more. But there were other things to buy and try.
After our feast, we decided to take a walk... around this massive food department store. The bread section was rooting for the Bulls, and we approved.
And after seeing the walnut cookies, I couldn't help but get one. Along with a chocolate chip cookie. And a shortbread cookie. I love cookies, and these certainly did not disappoint.
I stay away from coffee-based items, but Andrew seems to be adjoined at the hand with them. And he says that this is the best macchiato he's had in the city. But then again, how could you go wrong with an espresso machine like THAT???
And finally, the much anticipated Nutella Bar. Maybe there was too much hype, maybe I was too full, or maybe the Nutella Bar is just a bit overrated. Of the three items I had, I will only somewhat crave for the Nutella tart. The hazelnut Nutella cookie was a bit dry, and the crepe honestly just fell below my standards (especially after a 5-10 minute wait).
As I told a friend, some of EATALY is overpriced, some of it is culinary genius, some of it is overrated but overall, it's an Italian cuisine wonderland! I can't wait to go back to try the pasta, the cheese, and of course, their huge selection of wines!
- To make a reservation at one of the restaurants, use seatme.com. Too bad EATALY doesn't use Opentable so I could get the points.
- If you are looking for the perfect olive oil, EATALY is the place to shop. Plus, there is even a section that teaches you all about olive oils so you can choose the right one!
- If you are driving, there is a TON of parking available in the nearby parking garages. If you spend $20 at EATALY (which is easily done), it's free for the first hour and $10 for the next two hours.
- EATALY isn't just a place for you to eat, drink and shop. It's also a wonderful place to learn about Italian ingredients. I'm not talking about the available cookbooks but rather the signs and "posters" that are incorporated into the entire place. Plus, the employees know quite a bit about Italian food and wine. In fact, they learn about it in their training.