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#1
Posted June 9th 2006, 10:31am
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I criticized the Tribune's Phil Vettel for dinging the extraordinary Matsumoto for lacking a few ordinary accoutrements such as nicer-than-takeout chopsticks; as if in response (no, I don't really think that) he prefaces his review of Schwa by pointing out that it lacks a few of the niceties of the standard high end dining experience, but makes it clear you'd be a fool to get too hung up on that:

Phil Vettel wrote:The conservative in me says to keep the star rating low, and to wait for Schwa's dining experience to improve. But you know what? It's never going to happen. Within the next couple of years, some major investor is going to wave a stack of bills under the nose of chef/owner Michael Carlson, and he and Schwa will be gone. Or the restaurant will be transformed into something with four-star aspirations (eminently attainable, from what I've eaten), and foodies who knew the restaurant when will brag, "I dined at Schwa when the entrees were only $28!"


I still don't quite agree with his priorities-- I ate four-star food last night, and had four-star service in the ways that matter most, even if the place doesn't have four-star air conditioning-- but I find this a much healthier attitude.

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Still, before I went there, I admit to some paradoxical trepidation of my own about Schwa's lack of refinements, philosophical if not culinary in nature. If one of the best new restaurants in Chicago was managing to make its name by ignoring the niceties and saying "It's only the food, take it or leave it," were they upping the Restaurant Seriousness arms race to dangerous new levels? I've written before about how the serious restaurant experience has started to become as hushed and sober as the art gallery experience, showmanship is a lost art, themes are for Disneyland, fun is for tourists. If Schwa, where the food is mostly brought straight out by the chefs as they finish it, made nice glasses and adequate waitstaff seem like distracting frills or frilly distractions, how much longer would we have tablecloths in nice restaurants? Or chairs?

But if my imagined Schwa was an ascetic experience with a Cromwell-like chef eyeing balefully us to make sure we ate with the proper devout attitude, I soon realized that there was a much more recent and agreeable precedent for Schwa's combination of just-acceptable setting and electrifying food. Back in the 70s, when downtown Chicago theater meant yet another chance to see Gordon McRae in the permanent touring company of Carousel (I think it's still out there, in Kuala Lumpur or maybe on Neptune), you might have taken the Halsted bus to a ratty old building in dicey Lakeview and sat down on mismatched seats in a "theater" where black paint covered a lot of sins. No curtain concealed the set, which looked like a stoner's apartment after a party. The audience was an odd mix of scruffy young people and well-dressed folks, not all of whom were sure what they were doing there. The lights would go down, two odd-looking kids would come out-- one tall and balding with a lisping voice, the other smaller and a little weaselly, indistinguishable from a bagboy at Jewel. And then John Malkovich and Gary Sinise would start beating the crap out of each other in Sam Shepard's True West, and you weren't sure if this was the best play you'd ever seen, or if they'd turn on you before the evening was over.

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Alas, Chicago theater doesn't have that kind of cocktail-chat, culture-vulture cachet any more, but Chicago food does; and so Schwa, in 2006, turns out to be the dodgy neighborhood storefront experience that everyone has to have, the ticket that's impossibly hard to get (we heard them say, by the way, that September reservations are about to open). No, you won't get Riedel stemware, but don't think for a second that the performance isn't a hundred times more disciplined, precise and accomplished than devons-- I'm sorry, I mean dozens-- of chichier places that have opened recently. The kitchen at Schwa (visible in an open window) moves at breakneck pace like a precision ballet, the service was easygoing yet obviously learned (the place is BYO, but our waiter sized up the assortment of bottles we'd brought and quickly made intelligent choices about which would best serve the courses ahead), and with only five staff members, chefs included, serving 10 or 12 courses to each of 15 or 20 diners, dishes arrived on a near-clockwork schedule and there was not a misstep in the evening. (Once I thought I caught one of the chefs stopping in the doorway as he realized he was delivering our next course before the previous one had been cleared. I should have known better, it was headed for another table and ours followed a few moments later, to a clear table.)

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And the food? We'll get to pictures in a minute, but this was extraordinarily accomplished food, clearly descended from Grant Achatz (whose one post here was touting Michael Carlson before Schwa opened*), but more sensuous and less scientific; Achatz opened my eyes several times, at Schwa I wanted to close them and just luxuriate in the sensation, or maybe put a cloth over my head, like Mitterand dining on ortolans, and be enswirled by the aromas.

Okay, let's see what we had, particular standouts are bolded:

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An amuse-bouche of a toasted marshmallow with a bit of dried or fried carrot sticking out of it, washed down by a carrot-cardamom lassi. Savory drink, kid-food ingredient-- a course straight out of the Chicago food playbook.

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White anchovy draped over a bowl spread with (almost invisible) celery-root puree and manchego cheese, and a small apple and celery salad.

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Fennel, fava bean and strawberry salad with assortment of cheeses and purees to play with. Susan had a mild panic attack after the somewhat lengthy list of ingredients was recited, not knowing the exact way to eat this:

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We would soon relax and just go with the sensual flow of the flavors without worrying too much exactly what they were (which is why this report will be a bit vague at times).

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Prosciutto-- raw and crispy-- and melon, with a prosciutto consomme. Although this looks a bit like a Keller or Achatz non-dish, the lush Euro-American meatiness of it seemed unlike anything we'd had at Trio, for instance, and the clearest sign of how Carlson is taking their inspiration and making it his own. The first one that made us want to close our eyes and just steep in it.

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And the second one that made us want to do that was the thoroughly justly praised quail egg ravioli. As the waiter observed, sexual metaphors are pretty much inescapable with this one. I'll leave it at that.

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You know the joke about getting the family history of your fish these days? This turns out to be not just Iranian but Iranian-American caviar, Iranian sturgeon raised in Michigan, on a little puree of artichoke or something, I forget. (Amusing note: the cup was glued to the plate with a dab of very stiff mashed potatoes.)

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"I want to send this scallop to Devon Seafood Grill so they know what a scallop is next time." --G Wiv. With morels and a lemon lavender sauce, absolutely lovely and perfectly cooked.

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Duck breast and confit, shaved sunchokes, kumquat jelly to dip in.

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I forget what this little one-bite thing was, I think it was radish-based, oddly enough-- radishes on radish puree with radish gelee or something.

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Beef ribeye with scrambled eggs and taleggio, and a little dab o' super-tender pork belly. Who'd have guessed that scrambled eggs would be the key component of one of the most dazzling dishes? But this steak'n'egger was just fantastic, tender blood-red beef with silky eggs and a hint of stinky cheese. Plus, they're not dummies, they sent us a decent-sized portion of beef just at the point when we were starting to wonder if, good as it was, we'd need to make a run for hot links and rib tips afterward. No such need.

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Sweet-savory radish-based palate cleanser in a little glass which, oddly, has a bump on the bottom so it won't sit flat.

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Gooey dark chocolate cake with some glob of cheese, white truffle shavings, and a truffle vanilla milkshake. Susan was a little put off by other flavors getting in the way of her chocolate, but I thought it was a brilliant use of real truffle, not oil, to take chocolate orgiastically over the top in that way that somebody was thinking of when they said that French cooking exists on the borderline between ecstasy and revulsion. One second the milkshake was like drinking a spare tire, the next second it was mindblowingly lush.

To sum up: Schwa good. Go there. September opens up soon, though as I noted in an earlier thread, what worked for me in getting the last open slot in June, apparently, was just saying "Please please please, when the heck can you fit four of us in?"

* When the subject of the posting about food on the Internet came up, our waiter asked, "Oh, you're from eGullet?" (Achatz posts a lot there, so no surprise that's their frame of reference.) We told him just for that, we were going to call the restaurant Scylla when we wrote about it.

Schwa
1466 N. Ashland Ave.
(773) 252-1466
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#2
Posted June 9th 2006, 12:03pm
We were there on Wednesday, 7th and had an amzing dinner. First time there, not last time. We commented on how refreshing it was to have 4 star food in a non-stuffy atmosphere. Waiter in jeans, heavy metal music coming from the kitchen, 2 of the 4 cooks with mohawks...I wish there were more restaurants like this serving 4 star food.

Our dinner was 99% the same as yours, except dessert. We opted for non-chocolate and were brought an amazing combination of savory and sweet on one plate. Olive oil ice cream served over a bran muffin (not the description of the waiter, but my mouth was salavating by now and I tuned out) with basil puree, strawberry foam, and cured Kalamata olives. We all but licked our plates clean!
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#3
Posted June 9th 2006, 12:13pm
Okay, I am there as soon as I can be.

Mike, you seem to be on a brutal dining schedule. May Street, Schwa, Katy's and so much more. Are you in training for some sort of food marathon?
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#4
Posted June 9th 2006, 1:38pm
Great post Mike (although I wish the pics were in color). I feel quite fortunate that I managed to eat there several times before the rest of the known universe caught on.

I was thinking about putting Schwa up for a GNR award, but I wouldn't even know where to begin with the "neighborhood"-part of the award. Probably the best food you can get in close proximity to electric palm trees though.
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#5
Posted June 9th 2006, 1:43pm
although I wish the pics were in color


If you saw the color as it came out in the restaurant's light, you wouldn't. This was an arty salvage job.

It's too bad they don't serve lunch, because they have the perfect table by a window for natural light (visible in the second shot, but not nearly as bright at 7 pm as it looks there).
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#6
Posted June 10th 2006, 7:51am
LTH,

The term hip gets tossed around quite a bit, just vague enough to encompass everything from The Three Stooges to twee pop, the forced affected hip at Mulan to the cool, confident hip at the Matchbox, but, as Susan G said, like pornography, you know it when you see it and Schwa is hip.

Schwa Kitchen
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Hip though they may be, Schwa's minimal staff is amazing, the sustained grace of a long distance runner, focused concentration of a thoracic surgeon combine with the culinary chops to make even a couple of beenaround the block chaps like Mike G and myself think about sending a thank you bouquet for taking us, if not over, at least up to the culinary cutting edge.

Speaking of sending flowers, quail egg ravioli really does verge on orgasmic, think egg yolk scene in Tampopo, it's worth the price of admission just for this one dish.

Quail Egg Ravioli
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Beef ribeye was another amazing dish, and the only other one I have a good picture of, Schwa is, as Mike mentioned, not conducive to taking pictures, accented perfectly by summer truffle, scrambled egg and taleggio cheese. (Seems taleggio is nudging on manchego as menu must have)

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Though Schwa prides itself for focus on food over amenities, that doesn't mean there are no niceties, service was impeccable, our waiter, though that descriptor does not do the 7-8 things he was doing concurrently justice, was dead-on in wine assistance, napkins folded when one visited the loo and silver came and went so quickly I wondered if the Hunt bros were silent partners in the restaurant. Oh, and the coffee cups, I really liked the coffee cups.

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My suggestion, call today and take any available reservation, Michael Carlson is not long for a BYOB store front on Ashland Ave.

Speaking of Ashland Ave, I had lunch Friday at Carniceria Leon. The 1400 N block is a hell of a good eating street, bookended by Schwa and Carniceria Leon with Carnicerias Guanajuanto, a Mexican grocery with in-house taqueria, in the middle.

Carniceria Leon
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Enjoy,
Gary
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#7
Posted June 13th 2006, 3:09pm
Schwa is closed through June 23rd. They are on their way to Aspen at the invitation of Food and Wine.

Regards,
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#8
Posted July 21st 2006, 9:23am
We went last night, and had we not dined at Per Se earlier in the week, would have thought the dinner was one of the best things we'd had in quite a while ;) It was good, but it isn't Per Se - though I think that sort of meal is more where it deserves comparison, it's not nearly as similar to Alinea.

Many of the dishes we had were the same as listed above, including the quail egg ravioli (which I thought was good, but I thought they should have made the pasta thinner). The one spoon thing was confit of eggplant. The caviar was on avacado and cauliflower puree. We were there with another couple, so they gave use 2 different desserts (one per couple) to share. We had the chocolate cake, which was outstanding, and an olive-oil cake with berries and some sort of berry pannacotta or something with that texture, truffle cheese, and a white chocolate truffle milkshake. Good, but my husband vastly preferred the chocolate cake.

Our reservation was at 7:30 and we finished around 10. A bit long for a mid-week dinner. They had tables open, but people did keep coming in, even at 9 pm.

The chef asked us how everything was, and we were effusive in our praise, which I suspect he's heard a lot - he seemed not terribly interested saying "yeah, yeah" - but perhaps he was just busy.

We enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how often we'll be back. It's definitely a destination restaurant, not a neighborhood hang.
Last edited by leek on July 21st 2006, 12:54pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#9
Posted July 21st 2006, 11:31am
Gary, those coffee mugs you liked are available from CB2. I had admired them when I visited the Lincoln Avenue store a couple of weeks ago. They are four bucks each, and can be seen and purchased online too: http://www.cb2.com/family.aspx?c=222&f=2023
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#10
Posted July 21st 2006, 11:37am
It was good, but it isn't Per Se


So a dodgy Bucktown storefront run by twentysomethings isn't quite as good as the highly-hyped New York outpost of one of the two or three most acclaimed chefs in America?

High praise indeed. :)
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#11
Posted July 21st 2006, 12:56pm
Yeah, we tried hard not to compare the two, but eating two tasting menus very similar in style within a week - hard not to compare.
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Leek
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#12
Posted July 21st 2006, 1:29pm
Mike G wrote:
It was good, but it isn't Per Se


So a dodgy Bucktown storefront run by twentysomethings isn't quite as good as the highly-hyped New York outpost of one of the two or three most acclaimed chefs in America?

High praise indeed. :)



And the price differential (no need to include cost of parking/valet)?
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#13
Posted July 21st 2006, 5:53pm
I, too, ate at Schwa last night. I don't have much to add to the descriptiojns of the meal - and its highlights, the quail egg ravioli and the truffle milkshake - that appear further up this thread. I do have to say though that I was disappointed that the menu was identical to the one that Gwiv had a month and a half ago... late July is such a great time for fresh, seasonal produce that it struck me as very odd that they're still serving a salad with fava beans and strawberries. I wish they'd change it up a bit!

Also, the menu format has changed. Nothing is offered a la carte - there are 2 menu options, 3 courses for $55 or 9 courses for $90. Still BYO of course.
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#14
Posted July 23rd 2006, 4:20pm
Ms.Paris wrote:I do have to say though that I was disappointed that the menu was identical to the one that Gwiv had a month and a half ago... late July is such a great time for fresh, seasonal produce that it struck me as very odd that they're still serving a salad with fava beans and strawberries. I wish they'd change it up a bit!


This is a good point. We last ate there in early July and had been planning to aim for a November, or so, return when the menu will presumably be very different.

Having said that, looking through this thread and the recent entries in the Schwa thread on eGullet, it seems they are more riffing on the main themes, rather than doing exactly the same thing each night. Or, doing a limited number of variations, which would explain why you had the exact same dishes.
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#15
Posted July 23rd 2006, 4:38pm
Remember, too, that they were gone for a couple of weeks, which certainly could slow the creation of a new menu.
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#16
Posted August 9th 2006, 10:06am
My ladylove and I finally got to Schwa this past weekend, and it's refreshing to dine at a place that does, in fact, live up to the buzz. This place is really a gem, and I'll be sad if/when Carlson leaves the 'hood. It seems there is much overlap between our menu and the menus from a couple of months back, but I think there are a couple of new items. As mentioned above, owing to the dimness it's exceptionally difficult to get good shots at Schwa. That said, here's the best I could do (with many thanks to Photoshop for lighting and color correction). As usual, all photos are of the click to enlarge variety:


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The amuse was a bit of lychee, topped with microplaned walnut and paired with a cool Earl Grey tea that had been touched with a little yuzu and some type of flower, the name of which I missed (though I believe it was supposed to be a common component of Earl Grey). While the tea was a really nice, refreshing start (especially given that the space appears to be cooled by a single wall unit), I can't say the lychee and walnut was doing much for me. Though I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, this opening tempered my excitement somewhat. But whatever concerns I had were quickly put to rest.


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The amuse was immediately followed by a wonderful spring salad composed of a myriad of ingredients, including shaved fennel and asparagus, strawberries, fava beans, fava and strawberry purees, goat cheese, saba, and a mysterious brown puree that I thought was the key to the dish. The salad was beautifully composed, wonderfully balanced, fresh and light and delicious. Saba was the first of a few ingredients that were new to me on this particular evening (a rare treat!), and in searching online I've seen it alternately referred to as a grape reduction, a vinegar similar to balsamic or synonymous with vin santo. I didn't get a pure enough taste to get a good sense, but the "vinegar similar to balsamic" characterization seems most plausible, working from memory. The key, however, was the U-shaped brown puree you see hiding on the left side of the dish. When I asked our server what it was, he replied that it was caramelized fennel, but I think he may have thought I was referring to the U-shaped crispy fennel chip sticking out of the goat cheese immediately next door. The brown puree was earthy and seemed almost yeasty, but I couldn't put a finger on exactly what it was. In any case, it took the salad and gently grounded it, without holding back the otherwise light and sweet qualities.


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Next up was a fun little riff on prosciutto e melone. Carlson apparently spent a great deal of time in Italy, and this is obviously a dish that's borne of love for the stalwart upon which it's based. It pairs the traditional chilly version with a hot repackaging of the same ingredients. The thinly sliced prosciutto and cantaloupe cascade from a small cup filled with a hot prosciutto consommé, all sprinkled with some baby arugula sprouts. The prosciutto e melone was as simple and delicious as a good prosciutto and melone should be. The consommé was wonderful, porky and salty and intense, and an unusual hot contrast to the traditionally cold elements. The dish had a nice finish as well, with two marble-sized cantaloupe balls sitting in the bottom of the cup that had steeped in the consommé.


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This has been fairly well covered, and I can only add my praise to the pile. Carlson's quail egg ravioli has become something of a de facto signature dish, not the wildest and wackiest in his repertoire, but the one that lingers in people's memory. Again, he draws on his Italian experience, serving a pair of ravioli in a fried sage and brown butter sauce, filled with bufala ricotta and a liquid quail egg, and topped with a touch of Parmigiano Reggiano. The liquid egg filling is the singular non-traditional move, and it's a stroke of genius. It takes an already wonderfully rich dish and pushes it right over the top in most welcome fashion. And though it may seem a small detail, I adore the fact that the sauce is nice and salty. There are few things I appreciate more than a chef who isn't shy about using salt, and they are, sadly, rarer than they should be.


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The awesomeness continued from there. Next up was an Illinois sturgeon caviar, sitting atop an avocado puree, a sweet and slightly sour cauliflower cream, and a small pile of miniscule cauliflower florets. I will admit to not being a caviar expert. I've eaten quite a bit, and I can certainly tell a good one from a bad one, but I'm not well-versed on the fine points. So I was delighted to discover that we apparently produce some pretty damn fine caviar right here at home. The cauliflower was such a perfect accompaniment to the caviar, I can't believe I've never seen it before. It worked in similar fashion to a more traditional crème fraiche pairing; a light, creamy puree with a natural sweetness that was made more interesting by the vegetal quality. The avocado rounded out the flavor and added another layer of richness, and the florets added more textural interest. It was a very unusual caviar treatment that worked spectacularly well.


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And then I was absolutely floored. Over the years I've discovered that when I encounter a dish that's so unusual, so enthralling and so perfect that it borders on a religious culinary experience, my natural manly instinct is to start laughing. The last time a dish made me laugh was April of 2005 when I had the incredible Moi with fennel confit at Pahu i'a. Before that, I believe it was another lobster dish at Jean-George circa 2003, so you get a sense of how frequently this occurs. I suppose describing my reaction as laughing is putting it charitably. Giggling is probably closer to the truth. In any case, the lobster dish was full-on giggleworthy. The dish contained chunks of butter-poached lobster, sitting on a potato puree and accompanied by slices of roasted fingerling potatoes, some Swiss chard, gooseberries and a lavender foam. The combination was the kind of bold, pure, intense flavor that creates a total sensory overload. I think I left my body for a minute or two. A dish this intoxicating is a rare, rare treat.


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Though a dropoff is unavoidable after a dish like the lobster, the excellence continued with the sweetbreads. I was thrilled to see sweetbreads on the menu. They've been on my absolutely must try list for the past 5-6 years, but I've been patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity, saving my first taste for an establishment where I know they'll be prepared well. As such, while I have no basis of comparison when it comes to sweetbreads, I feel I can safely say that this was a great dish. The sweetbreads were accompanied by a bit of wine-poached rhubarb, a smear of Humboldt Fog goat cheese and a bit of fresh slivered rhubarb salad. The sweetbreads were delightful. They had that indescribable rich organ-ey taste, but unlike liver, which smacks you over the head with it, the sweetbreads were lightly crisp on the outside, pleasantly chewy in the middle and very subtly flavored. The Humboldt Fog, which had a light pungency almost reminiscent of a bleu, played into the sweetbreads' organ flavor, while the tartness of the rhubarb in both forms cut through their richness. Very nicely conceived, and beautifully executed.


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Next, we received an off-the-menu amuse intermezzo of sorts, in the form of a bit of eggplant confit with pickled daikon and dried, candied daikon flakes. As I told my ladylove, this is the amuse that I wish had led off the meal. I've mentioned this before... it's a philosophical issue and a matter of preference, but I'm of the opinion that amuse has to really pop. When you have such a tiny taste that's intended to wake up your palate, I think a potent jolt is far more effective than a subtle warmup. This spoon popped. It was clean, light, potent, amusing and delicious... and then it was gone.


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Our final savory course has, again, been seen earlier in the thread. It's another invention that threw in an unexpected and brutally effective curveball. The chef who served it to us announced it as Schwa's "steak and eggs". A playful yet cleanly executed repackaging, it took both grilled slices of ribeye and veal cheek confit and paired them with light, fluffy scrambled eggs, some Swiss chard, a light grating of summer truffle and taleggio cheese, and... the curveball... a healthy shot of urban honey. Without the honey it would have been a gussied-up yet very tasty standard, but the simple addition changed the entire complexion of the dish, making it both lively and unique. It was yet another unusual pairing that somehow seemed so natural, it was hard to believe that I'd never seen it before.


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Our first of two desserts struck me as more of a transitional dish than a full-on dessert. Recently, I've spent a lot of time musing about desserts that straddle the line between sweet and savory, challenging traditional ideas of what comprises the ideal sweet finish to a meal. As such, this really couldn't have caught me at a better time. It was a sunchoke puree topped with raspberry jelly and a small sunflower sprout. The green, vegetal quality of the sunchokes playing against the sweet, fruity jelly sat it squarely on the fence and positioned it as a great transition between the previous meaty, savory dish and our final dish, which was as dessert as dessert gets.


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Of course, I can appreciate a dessert dessert as well, and the chocolate dish was just that. It was a simple and rich but light chocolate cake with a bit of chocolate ganache and sweetened bufala ricotta, served alongside a chocolate shake. It seemed straightforward and delicious until I got to the shake, when I noticed there was a pungent flavor that was extremely familiar, but which I couldn't quite put my finger on. It worked beautifully, and though I knew the mystery flavor well, I suspected that it was the unusual context that was throwing me off. I finally caved and asked, after which I slapped myself. Truffle... of course. So the dessert played on the dual meaning of the word, but the pairing was anything but gratuitous. In the shake, it acted as an upscale malt substitute, lending a delicious funky pungency and aroma. Again, a total surprise that seemed so obvious in retrospect.

I'm not sure what I can say to sum up other than it really was as wonderful as the photos and dish descriptions would leave you to believe. And I get the feeling it's only the beginning for this guy. I'd selfishly like to horde him away and keep Schwa in my neighborhood forever, but I have to agree with Phil Vettel. I think it's probably just a matter of time -- and probably not much of it -- before Carlson's off to bigger things.
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#17
Posted August 9th 2006, 10:34am
Dmnkly, I was at Schwa this weekend as well. My party had almost the same menu as you did, with one exception. Instead of steak and eggs, our final savory course was beef short rib. I love short rib, and this was the highlight of the evening for me--although I agree with you that many of the dishes were spectacular. The best short rib I've ever had.

As for the brown paste with the salad, they told us it was fennel paste. This was in addition to the fennel chip.

Otherwise, I have nothing to add to what you've said. It was a wonderful meal. Thanks for posting the pictures, and allowing me to relive it in my head.
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#18
Posted August 9th 2006, 11:34am
Assuming there were any available... :roll:

Schwa missed out on a late-August reservation yesterday. Each time I called the number on the website I got patched thru to a fax tone. C'est la vie...

we made other plans
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#19
Posted August 9th 2006, 11:42am
Christopher Gordon wrote:Assuming there were any available... :roll:


As of Saturday morning, there weren't.
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#20
Posted August 9th 2006, 11:51am
Aaron Deacon wrote:
Christopher Gordon wrote:Assuming there were any available... :roll:


As of Saturday morning, there weren't.


I called on Saturday too. Booked solid everyday until October :shock:
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#21
Posted August 9th 2006, 1:41pm
Christopher Gordon, I accidentally dialed the number with a (312) area code and got the fax. Schwa is in the (773) realm--maybe that helps? Call now and I bet they can get you in some time around Arbor Day.
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#22
Posted August 9th 2006, 3:12pm
allecia wrote:Christopher Gordon, I accidentally dialed the number with a (312) area code and got the fax. Schwa is in the (773) realm--maybe that helps? Call now and I bet they can get you in some time around Arbor Day.


It's possible :)

this is a meal for a Manhattanite enamored of all things James Beard and Shawn McClain(I exaggerate)...

we suggested one of Chicago's boutique restaurants as more indicative of where the cuisine is headed(outside of molecular gastronomy, of course)

Sweets n Savories or Schwa(of which I haven't partaken...funny thing, that storefront, Savoy Truffle, then Lovitt, now Schwa...we lived just down the street for 6 years, hence my love for Carneceria Leon and Luc Thang)...so, we lured our friend away from his initial choice, Custom House...hoping for Schwa...

no go

Shawn McClain wins this round:

it's Spring
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#23
Posted August 11th 2006, 9:34am
FYI October is now completely booked. Hello November!
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I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#24
Posted August 11th 2006, 10:12pm
jesteinf wrote:FYI October is now completely booked. Hello November!


They definitely still have seats for October. Call now - quick!
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#25
Posted August 15th 2006, 10:11am
berryberry wrote:Thanks for posting the pictures, and allowing me to relive it in my head.

Dmnkly,

Please allow me to echo BerryBerry's sentiment.

Really nice pictures.

Enjoy,
Gary
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#26
Posted October 5th 2006, 11:19pm
HI,

At the end of July, I went with a friend to Schwa for a birthday celebration. I had the fortune of making my reservation just as they were preparing to leave for Aspen, Colorado to be anointed by Food and Wine magazine. A full month in advance, I was given two dates to choose with start times of 9:30 PM or 5:30 PM; I chose the 5:30 PM opportunity. When we arrived, we were the very first customers with new parties arriving every 30 minutes.

While the menu I had is quite similar to what Dmnkly documented above, I thought I would treat you to the interesting service vignettes during our meal.

Each course was introduced by different members of the kitchen staff. This practice allowed an opportunity to meet virtually everyone on their staff. While we knew in advance via the menu card what to expect with each course, it was fun to have it personally introduced. It was also an occasion to ask questions.

When the quail egg ravioli in a browned butter was served, I asked if I could have some bread to soak up and enjoy the butter. I was provided an earnest response, "We don't make bread on the premises and therefore we have no bread to offer you." I took it one step further in my mind: if we cannot make it to our standards, then it is not offered, which was fine with me.

The sweetbreads were accompanied by Humboldt Fog, which I had purchased a piece the evening before at Sam’s when I purchased wine for the dinner. I queried the person presenting the dish if Humboldt Fog was a trade name or specific style of cheese. I could see the answer being carefully mulled, then he advised all Humboldt Fog came from one producer, so yes it is likely a trade name.

When they offered Illinois sturgeon caviar, I inquired if it came from Collin’s Caviar. I was advised their Illinois sturgeon caviar came from The Fish Guy on Elston.

The prosciutto accompanying our prosciutto consommé was on the crisp side. I guessed they had put it in a dehydrator, like the fennel chip, which they affirmed.

I also loved their serving pieces, especially the tumbler for a chilled course. This was presented by spinning the tumbler on the table until it stopped at an angle predetermined by design.

Image

The shape of the bottom immediately reminded me of sazerac’s post:

Tumbler is really an old term - back to the days when glasses had thick rounded bottoms (on the outside) and had to be kept on a holder (with a concave top) - essentially to discourage theft.


Image

During the course of the evening, I visited the unisex toilet, which allowed a great opportunity to see the kitchen buzzing. When I returned, my friend also took this opportunity to visit the toilet. She returned to the table with an unusual series of questions. “When you were in the bathroom did you wash your hands?” “Sure.” “Which wastebasket did you throw your towel into?” “There is one wastebasket by the toilet and the other by the sink, I used the sink wastebasket.” “Your towel was gone by the time I used toilet.” In the very short interval, they had already refreshed the only toilet, which was the very best service they could offer in their very limited space. An attention to detail practically not exhibited in any restaurant or home I have ever visited.

I was very impressed by the ambition, energy and attention to detail at Schwa. I'm only sorry I didn't come earlier in their restaurant's life, when it was a la carte instead of fixed menus. Yet I appreciate they are trying to get the maximum out of the limitations of space and staff.

All the best,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#27
Posted October 11th 2006, 10:04pm
We went to Schwa on Tuesday nigth, we had reservation at 6:30pm.
Since we are vegetarians, we only had the three course meal. I was told that we could had told them when we made the reservations and they would have created an 8 course meal that was vegetarian friendly. I guess we just have to go back...
Everything was so great and we were able to chat with Michael, Nathan and I think Blake... everyone was very nice. Mr. Sodypop wanted me to call today and make reservations for whenever they are available next; now that we know that the chef is OK with making an 8 course meal that is vegetarian friendly and they are looking foward to that "challenge", we are even more looking forward to our next time.
I am working on taking pictures at a restaurant and food in general.
So here are some pictures!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/24527769@N ... 324358581/

I could not add pictures, but I will keep trying.

Thanks everyone with all the help with picking a wine.[/url]
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#28
Posted October 12th 2006, 7:34am
Cathy2 wrote:In the very short interval, they had already refreshed the only toilet, which was the very best service they could offer in their very limited space. An attention to detail practically not exhibited in any restaurant or home I have ever visited.


There is equally good toilet service at Tru, which I found a bit disconcerting since there was a staff person, obviously assigned to toilet duty, standing by when I left the Men's room who immediately entered the bathroom as soon as I left. At the time I felt a bit like they were checking to see if I had stolen the towels. :lol:
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Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#29
Posted October 18th 2006, 1:04pm
Can anyone who has had the 9 course prix fixe menu tell me approximately how long the meal took? We're going tonight, and I'm wondering how much wine to bring--if it's a long, drawn-out meal, then I'll bring more wine. Mmm, I hope it's a long, drawn-out meal...
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#30
Posted October 18th 2006, 1:09pm
It was a long meal - 3 hours at least. Lovely, but a bit much for us on a school night :(
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