Restaurant Week Roundup: Brunch Edition
As a college student on a budget and a self-proclaimed foodie, it is often difficult to try out popular places around town because of the typically high price points. Once a year, however, Chicago restaurants participate in Restaurant Week, where a prix fixe menu is offered at more affordable prices.
Thanks to Restaurant Week earlier this month, I had the opportunity to taste-test several dishes at restaurants I normally would not gravitate towards out of fear of breaking the bank! This year, I tried out the brunch menus at two highly rated restaurants: Bellemore and Ema. Both menus consisted of a three-course brunch at a fixed price of $24, not including tax or gratuity.
564 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
My first stop was Bellemore, which is located in West Loop. Claiming the title of a “New American Classic restaurant,” chef and partner Jimmy Papadopoulo describes the cuisine at Bellemore as “bold, bright and beautiful.”
Upon entering the restaurant, I was amazed by how modern-looking it was. The décor was sleek and distinct, tastefully incorporating brass elements with wood. After perusing the menu for a few minutes, I placed my order: sweet potato tots, the ‘Fire-Bird’ chicken sandwich, and chocolate mousse.
As a huge fan of sweet potatoes, I thoroughly enjoyed the tots. They were perfectly crispy and paired well with the complementary parmesan aioli. However, I felt as if the Fire-Bird was lacking and felt a little sloppily prepared. The copious amount of mayonnaise in the sandwich weighed down the bread and turned the chicken quite soggy, which is not a desirable texture.
The disappointment I experienced while eating the chicken sandwich was slightly alleviated by the chocolate mousse. Usually, I am not a fan of chocolate desserts as they can be too rich and sweet for my taste. However, the sweetness of the mousse was combatted by the tartness of the mandarin sherbert and the nuttiness of the coconut crunch garnished on top. Overall, the experience at Bellemore was enjoyable and I would definitely return, but I would not opt for the Fire-Bird again!
74 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654
My next stop was Ēma, located in River North. Former Top Chef contestant C.J. Jacobson curated the restaurant’s menu to include Mediterranean small plates.
My first impression of Ēma was how beautiful and rustic the décor was. The ceiling was covered in ivy intertwined with fairy lights and flowers in mason jars accompanied every table, which had the effect of making me feel very welcome and comfortable.
The Restaurant Week menu for Ēma was slightly larger than the Bellemore menu, including more appetizer and main dish options. After browsing the menu and taking some pictures of the décor for my Instagram (I had to do it for the aesthetic!!), I placed my order: spicy hummus, blueberry clafoutis, and house yogurt with granola. My friend ordered the crispy potatoes, lamb shakshuka, and house yogurt with granola. Because it was both of our first times there, we agreed that we would share the dishes family-style.
The first dish that came out was the house yogurt with granola. Although the fruit was incredibly fresh and the yogurt was tasty, I could not help but feel as if this was something I could have put together in the dining hall. Flavor wise, there was nothing wrong with the yogurt, but I did not feel like it was worthy of the price tag it fetches for.
The two side dishes, crispy potatoes and spicy hummus, were flavorful and I would definitely order them again if I were to return. The pita that comes with the spicy hummus is brushed by what appears to be garlic butter and it was quite honestly my favorite part of the entire meal. As for the main dishes, I was equally impressed. The blueberry clafoutis delivered the perfect amount of sweetness and warmth on a cold, snowy day in Chicago. The lamb shakshuka was just as impressive and the red harissa in the dish provided a good amount of spice. If I had to be nit-picky the egg cracked over the lamb shakshuka was a bit overcooked. Overall, Ēma provided an amazing dining experience and I would definitely return!
Both restaurants offered tasty options, but if I had to decide, I would have to say that Ēma provided a better Restaurant Week menu. There were more options and the food was generally more flavorful. It also does not hurt that the décor in Ēma provides for a great backdrop for Instagram pictures. Although Restaurant Week has come to a close, my experience at Ēma was so great that I would be willing to return for their regularly-priced dishes.
Feature image via.