This was my first visit to Chicago. The windy city is known for several things - including the fact that President Obama calls this city his home. But for the foodie, this city stands out for its celebrity chefs such as Grant Achatz - whose restaurant Alinea has been consistently voted as the best in the USA, as well as for its deep-dish pizzas and unique take on hot dogs.
Chicago is also the city which began the modern craze for skyscrapers. Nowhere is this more evident that in the downtown area where my hotel, The Peninsula, was located. This is an area popularly known as The Magnificent Mile - home to some of the most prestigious hotels, businesses and shopping areas. The Peninsula turned out to be among the most opulent hotels I have stayed in within the United States. The room and the lobby area reminded me of the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo.
Outside, it was a lovely warm day. The old Water Tower stood with dignity amidst the newer, taller steel and glass skyscrapers. This building has stood since the mid-19th century and was built to help fight fires. The Water Tower was also one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
I wolfed down a large slice of Giordano's stuffed pizza for bragging rights. For those of you pizza lovers who have more time than I did, here's a list of the best pizza places in this city.
Back in my room, I considered my dinner options. By now, my jet-lag was hitting me and I decided to stick to the hotel's own restaurants. The Peninsula is home to several fine-dining restaurants, but the piece de resistance is clearly Avenues. This two-Michelin starred place has been making waves with its cutting edge cuisine; unfortunately, this restaurant would be closed during the entire time of my stay here.
I finally decided to have dinner at The Lobby. The entire dining experience turned out to be quite extraordinary. I sat by the large windows overlooking the Magnificent Mile as a large silvery moon rose in the skies. I ordered a Riesling and nibbled on some very good bread. The waiter surprised me with two different amuse bouches: a creatively rendered version of ceviche that I loved, and the other, a soup of what appeared to be fresh corn kernels but turned out to be kernels that had been freeze-dried into a crispy taste without losing its looks. Nice!
The Summer Truffle Ravioli with Lobster, chanterelles and braised carrots was very good. Lavish shavings of truffle over the ravioli imparted a delightfully intense flavor. The chanterelles, a kind of fungus with a mild fruity smell and a peppery taste rounded off the dish very well.
The Wild Alaskan Halibut with Seafood Cassoulet, Smoked Bacon and Lobster Broth was quite delightful too. The rich, slow-cooked bean stew was made interesting with baby octopus and squid.
I ended with a fantastic Peninsula Coffee. Served in a wine glass, the coffee with Grand Mariner and Godiva chocolate was served hot was quite divine.