For our Home & Design issue, we’re heading a little further afield than usual to Hotel EMC2 in the heart of downtown Chicago. Tucked next to the lobby is a two-story temple to culinary creativity named The Albert.
The atmosphere is striking. Stuffed bookshelves and file cabinets of all varieties stacked two stories high take up the entire east wall. An elevated booth is backed with a chalk- board full of equations. The lights in the foyer are a constellation of frosted bulbs in a variety of shapes. Above the bar, a giant decorative infuser stands like laboratory scaffolding made of oversized jars and flasks. The contents of the jars cycle with the season, for our visit it was a picturesque tangle of vines and wildflowers.
The design of each dish is as arresting as the flavors on the plate. Even the cocktails. A drink called In Theory mixes the flavors of a Manhattan with a margarita while a thick black stripe of preserved lime salt runs the vertical length of the glass. Stylish and delicious. Every plate coming out of Executive Chef Larry Feldmeier’s kitchen is a statement piece. One glance at the Crispy Chicken Leg is proof enough that the man knows how to command your attention. From starters to dessert, we couldn’t have enjoyed our evening more.
The Albert is located inside Hotel EMC2 at 228 E. Ontario Street in Chicago, 312-471-3883, thealbertchicago.com.
Crispy Chicken Leg
This dish turned every head in the restaurant on the way to our table. We suppose it had to do with the flash fried chicken foot, talons and all, attached to the perfectly prepared chicken thigh on the plate. The meat is so tender. It’s heritage chicken, dry-aged a week, confit in duck fat, and flash fried. The skin is well seasoned and tantalizingly crispy, balancing smokiness with an Asian influence and speckled with black sesame seeds. We squeezed the grilled satsuma mandarin over the top and enjoyed the flavorful flourishes of chili aioli, pickled carrots, and cilantro. We didn’t eat the foot.
This dish was the highlight of the evening. It’s named after the full moon, evoked by the perfect pasta disk that covers the entire plate. Two thin sheets of house made pasta are stuffed with slivers of wild onion ramps that create a zebra stripe pattern. Folding back the blanket of pasta reveals a centerpiece of lobster meat surrounded by a pool of coral butter made of melted butter, white wine, and lobster roe. The sauce has a touch of spice to it as well, which enhances both the lobster and the pasta. The result is simultaneously light and decadent. Absolutely addictive.
This is the kind of dessert we needed after a series of dishes we couldn’t stop eating. It’s light, airy, and beautifully balanced. The mousse is delicately sweet and bounces against the sharp tang of a rhubarb gelée and the crumble of orange chiffon cake. A perimeter nest of crispy Greek phyllo dough called kataïfi adds a welcome counter-texture. For all the fancy touches courtesy of Pastry Chef Allison Schroeder, this delivers the deep comfort flavors of upscale key lime cheesecake.