El… According to Charlotte
“Where is this place?”
As we pull up behind a food truck, I breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude. Relief that we are 10 minutes ahead of our reservation time of 7pm. Gratitude for Google Navigation on my phone.
Chef Philip Foss was the executive chef at Lockwood, in the Palmer House Hilton. He left the restaurant last year and started his meatball sandwich food truck business. Now that his Meatyballs empire is on its way, Chef Foss decided to open a restaurant in the same location where his meatballs roll out.
Chef Andrew Brochu was formerly at Kith and Kin, which was 3 blocks away from where I live. My husband, who does not share my love for food, was thoroughly infatuated with Chef Brochu’s skate wing dish at K&K. While I am sad that Kith & Kin is no longer, I am happy Chef Brochu has found a place at EL.
Carolyn and I were extremely lucky and honored that we scored reservations on opening night. While I usually shy away from dining at a newly opened restaurant, I could not pass this up.
Here’s the concept: 11 courses, 1 menu. Allergies are accommodated, but dislikes are not. Everyone starts their meal at the same time. You come late and you will miss the course. Oh, and the menu costs $125, and it’s BYOB.
I would normally take the opportunity to detail out what I thought of each course, but that would spoil the surprise for everyone else. Not to mention the dishes are seasonal and you may not get what we were served. So I will try and keep my comments to a minimum, but will definitely call out the highlights and criticisms of the night.
Wow… who knew green beans would be so… exciting! Tiny, impossibly small green beans, served with a “ball” of… sliced green beans held together with a glee. Black garlic gave an interesting counterpoint. Sweet, chewy, crunchy, vegetal. One of my favorite dishes of the night.
Another highlight… Lollipopped chicken wing with a warm, creamy bleu cheese mousse. For a non-blue cheese lover, this was a hit. The celery rhubarb “salad” on the bottom was a perfect foil for the richness of the chicken.
The smell of campfire preceded this dish. The cast iron pots were blazing hot, searing into the wood below. The lid opens and you see a lonely oyster perched on wood chips. Ocean froth (not foam, because that’s SO 2000) is added on top.
My first criticism of the night. The lobster was perfectly cooked, sweet and tender. But the lobster broth was a tad oversalted.
Another instance of oversalting. The duck confit (hidden behind the breast) was salty again. But the duck breast was so perfectly medium rare, with the crispy skin.
I was so happy and sad when this course arrived. I love burrata. On a recent trip to Whole Foods for bread, I saw the burrata and pounced on it. $14 for a small palm-sized piece. Which is how I know the burrata they served was from Whole Foods. Because of the size of EL, they were unable to get this from a supplier. So they chose to splurge at Whole Foods paying retail! They didn’t have to, but I am glad they did.
The small staff (4 in kitchen, 1 front of house) means that all 8 of us had plenty of interactions with the chefs. Bill was an excellent server with a great wine background. From chilling our whites to airing our reds, he was on point with everything. Eating at EL is less eating at a high-end restaurant than eating with really good friends of which 2 of them are outstanding chefs.
All in all, an excellent dinner. So reasonably priced for the quality of the food. Chef Foss and Chef Andrew Brochu shone this evening and their talent is undeniable. Things happen for a reason, and I am happy they did. These two chefs can explore and experiment, pushing themselves to discover new dishes, and we are fortunate enough to experience it here in Chicago.
EL is only open for dinner, Thursday thru Saturday. If you think the hours are limited, wait until you hear how many people he serves a night… 8. That is the size of the restaurant. Maybe 10-12 if there is one giant communal table.
2419 W. 14th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
Reservations are by lottery. Send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and please include a telephone number, desired table size, preferred dates.