Intro Chicago is a restaurant with a fascinating concept. The menu, chef, decor, and music change every few months. The restaurant just welcomed their third chef, Aaron Martinez, who has created a menu that emphasizes fresh seasonal ingredients in elegant carefully composed presentations. We were recently treated to a memorable dining experience, and were left debating of what we loved most.
We were welcomed into a space decorated with neutral colors, some slight touches of green from some plants, and furniture with a modern aesthetic. Fun indie pop (lots of Passion Pit) played softly in the background. Once we were seated, a friendly server explained the concept and the menu. We would be experiencing a six course tasting menu, and we could choose to have a wine pairing or to select individual drinks from a wine and cocktail menu.
I chose to have the wine pairing, while Charles ordered Rioja by the glass. Before our meal began, we had an amuse bouche of a small piece of caviar topped cornbread. This set the bar for the gorgeous presentations and incredible food were were about to experience.
The first course was lightly cured king salmon with kohlrabi, dill, and frozen mustard. This was Charles’s favorite dish. He said that the salmon was the best that he had in long time, and he loved the frozen mustard that was creamy like an ice cream. The salmon itself was almost buttery. This was paired with Pievalta’s “Perlugo” sparkling wine that was fresh, and light and a nice compliment to the delicate flavors of the dish.
The next course was one of my favorites. Tomato and watermelon were paired with salty cured ham, seaweed, and coriander, and served in tomato infused water. It was a creative play on sweet and salty flavors, and a more modern use of classic summertime ingredients. A Gruner Veltliner by Malat wine was selected to compliment the tomatoes.
Striped bass with charred summer cabbage, lemon verbena, and lobster infused butter arrived next. The summer cabbage was surprisingly flavorful and it tied the dish together. The fish was beautifully prepared, and was perfectly flakey.
Short rib with a charred green onion, cherries, and different eggplant preparations was the fourth course. The eggplant was charred and pureed – with a lovely smokily taste, picked, and roasted and pureed.
The wine pairing was perfect. The earthy smokiness of the Nino Barraco Nero D’Avola spot on.
Pre-dessert was next. I had never heard the term “pre-dessert” before, but I am pleased with its existence and hope the trend catches on. Pre-dessert was thick creamy lemon-thyme glacé with chamomile soda. The glacé was similar to a gelato, and the chamomile soda was poured over creating a sophisticated variation on an ice cream float. I loved the subtile flavors and the smooth texture of the glacé.
The dessert was another highlight. The theme of strawberries was interpreted in three different ways: they were crushed, in a meringue, in a sorbet. The strawberries were presented with a thick elderflower mouse that had a consistency similar to a cheesecake filling, almonds, and white chocolate. Casalone’s Mariposa, a refreshing light strawberry wine was the pairing and it was delightful.
If the chamomile soda float was pre-dessert, what came next must have been post-dessert. Our meal concluded with cocoa butter bonbons that were filled with hibiscus juice. Eating them was a fun sensation since they exploded in your mouth, with the hibiscus juice filling your mouth. It was a fun refreshing treat.
Intro is fine dining without being stuffy. The staff is warm and welcoming, and incredible knowledgable. The music in the background seemed to be a cue that while the food is top notch, the chef wants you to have fun and be relaxed. Another thing to mention? The price point isn’t too high considering it is fine dining. The menu is $85 per person, with a discount being offered on reservations between 5-5:30 and 9-9:30 that brings the price down to $70.
Intro Chicago’s address is 2300 North Lincoln Park West, and Chef Aaron Martinez will be in residence until October 17th. The menu will be changing periodically based on seasonality of ingredients.
Thank you to Intro for the incredible dining experience.