February 8, 2013
One of the best things about Chicago's Restaurant Week is that it allows diners to experience, at low financial risk, interesting and new (at least to them) restaurants.
I've been meaning to visit Wood (3335 N. Halsted St., 773-935-9663) since it opened in late June, and its Restaurant Week dinner menu (three courses, $33) gave me a perfect excuse. And now my only regret is that I waited this long.
The menu offers only two choices in each course, but every single dish is impressive. There's a very nice Caesar salad, a perfectly rendered classic with the added fillip of butternut-squash croutons — crunchy croutons with squash-puree middles, nice warm surprises in a slightly chilled salad. House-made tagliatelle pasta is terrific, though the nuggets of house-made merguez sausage are the stars of the plate.
Truffled savoy cabbage provides exceptional support for three pan-seared scallops in cauliflower puree. Pork chop, served in off-the-bone slices, is a bit more done that I'd prefer, but the bounty of Brussels sprouts, cranberry and kabocha squash on the plate makes this dish worthy of a Thanksgiving dinner.
For dessert, there's an artistically messy chocolate composition that includes devil's food cake, chocolate cake "puree" and Chantilly cream, and a more structured rectangle of brown-butter cake topped with pickled blueberries and blueberry ice cream.
Along with the $33 menu is a $17 wine-pairing option, which, given the size of the pours and choice of wines, is a conspicuous bargain.
Wood, by the way, is one of the few Restaurant Week participants that doesn't use OpenTable.com for online reservations (it's not a requirement). So you'll have to make reservations the old-fashioned way.
Though Chicago Restaurant Week officially ends Sunday, many restaurants elect to extend their lunch and/or dinner deals for an additional week or so. I'll put together a list of those restaurants in Saturday's paper.
Chicago Restaurant Week continues through Sunday. For participating restaurants, menus and online reservations, go to choosechicago.com.