North Pond (Chicago 2017)
The restaurant is located in a wonderful setting in a gorgeous park next to a small lake. It definitely lives up to the hype as one of the most beautiful places in Chicago to dine. We loved the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired craftsman setting. It was simply the perfect spot for a wonderful 6-course brunch. And we loved that they opened all of the full-height doors/windows on their closed patio, giving us a fantastic al fresco dining experience hard to replicate. We had high expectations for this brunch, and were not disappointed in the least.
Ubering to the restaurant, we were dropped off on the street right next to the foot path leading to the restaurant. A 100 yard walk through the park gave us a wonderful view of the lake, and led us right to North Pond's front door. After the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's sometimes nice to have to walk through a beautiful setting to get to brunch. We certainly appreciated it. And, we even saw some cute dogs during out short walk.
After being promptly seated, we turned to the wine list, which is well-stocked and fairly-priced. Wanting a versatile red with brunch, we chose a 2014 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir. It was a tasty choice that paired well with the diverse fare. Not crystal bright in the glass (somewhat translucent), it had notes of bright red berries, blackberry, red currant, with an earthy component that included notes of forest floor and leather. We thought it was probably a 90-91 point wine for those that keep track of such things.
Our amuse-bouche was a nice little home-made blueberry muffin. Very fresh. Very tasty. Very blueberry-ie.
Our first real course of brunch came out soon enough: a roasted red pepper and crab bisque. A beautiful initial presentation, with sweet corn beignets, shishito peppers and bits of crab scattered around the bowl, a wonderful aroma really hit you once the server poured the bisque into the bowl. It had tons of roasted pepper taste, with wonderful hints of pleasantly-mild heat. The shishito pepper was a nice touch, and the crunchy sweet corn fritter was amazing. Great textural mix here that kept it away from a one-note dish.
The Egg and broccoli farfalle pasta came next. The egg was possibly a bit under. But the dish retained a very fresh, earthy, flavor accentuated by the richness of the prosciutto. It had just the right textural counterpoint thanks to the pasta and toasted bread crumbs. And, with a hint of lemon, there was enough acid to cut through the richness of the egg. Really solid effort on this one.
Next came the sea trout with caviar and pastrami butter. The dish offered a great contrast. The richness of the fish, the smoked caviar, and the bite of the mustard all balanced each other perfectly. There was some crunch provided by the root vegetable crudo, but we would have liked a bit more crunch. Unfortunately, we did find a pin bone in the fish. Easy to happen, but still never a pleasant experience when it does.
Next came the pork tenderloin with herb pesto over zucchini "zoodles." The dish was really a delicious blending of a delicately cooked medium pork tenderloin, the lightly acidic pesto, a butternut squash puree, the aforementioned zoodles, and delightfully-puffed, crunchy farro. Even though there wasn't much of it in the dish, the farro was the perfect crunchy counterpoint that was needed. The pesto kept things bright, even in the face of a very rich squash puree. We really enjoyed it, and thought it well-balanced and delicious. Fantastic dish that we would definitely order again!
Finally came the dessert courses. We started out with a dark chocolate and fresh-berry dessert that was refreshingly somewhat savory, due to the bitter chocolate mousse at the heart of the dish. The tuile provided a wonderful crunchy element. The ice cream and chocolate crumble added a good cold and crunchy counterpoint, with some sweetness. And, the berry coulee gave us some acidity. We could have used a bit more acidity to cut the richness of the ice cream and dark chocolate mousse, but overall it was pretty tasty.
Finally came a lovely vanilla and carmel panna cotta with blueberries, a blueberry coulis, a crunchy carrot cake crumble, and a citrus carrot sorbet. Let's be clear--the dish was pretty sweet. But, it also had great textural and mixed-temperature components that mixed the soft room-temp panna cotta with the cold sorbet, and the crunchy carrot cake crumble. We especially enjoyed the acidic "pop" we got from the blueberries mixed with the carrot sorbet, which helped to balance the richness of the vanilla panna cotta. Overall, a really well-made dessert, and the perfect sweet counterpoint to a lovely brunch on an absolutely beautiful day.
We certainly plan to return to North Pond the next time we're in Chicago. It certainly deserves its one Michelin star. The dishes were delicious, well thought-through, well-balanced, and beautifully plated. It was sophisticated food, even at brunch. Overall, a lovely experience we highly recommend. Especially on a nice day!