Summer House Santa Monica
 Chicago, Illinois        Date of Visit  11/17/16

We arrived at our smartly appointed and located B&B in anticipation of dinner at the world heralded Alinea…but that’s tomorrow night and our race against the predicted arrival time on the GPS has been fueled by pretzels and peanut M&M’s. Time to eat. Over a bottle of wine we decided to push Chicago deep dish pizza to lunch tomorrow and take advantage of one of the four options within 100 feet, oysters, tacos, pizza or California cuisine. As we sat on the third floor patio enjoying the second to last warm day of the year, I felt pretty sure the smells that were driving me animalistic were coming from the Summer House Santa Monica and I picked. Whoops.



Probably The Best We Had In Fake Summer

It is a slick and finely executed concept…a night out at the summer home in Santa Monica. California cuisine. Local. Fresh. The service started above average with low key but continual attention. It’s a nice night in Chi-town and even though the garage door opens into a busy Halsted Street, the fact that it's open enhances the summery feel of the interior. All of that was well done.

Then the food started to arrive.

We started with toasted cauliflower, guacamole and fire baked beets. The guac was probably the best of the bunch…nothing extraordinary like the regally adorned avocado at Xoco, but tasty with well-done chips and fair salsa. We love some roasted cauliflower but I found the jalapeño pesto, parmesan, candied lemon, and bread crumbs too complicated, completely overpowering the veg. It could have been packing peanuts. I’ll take a little lemon and dusting of grated parm over this any day.

The beets were very nicely plated but ended up being middling on the taste front; even staked with goat cheese, hass avocado, red apple, watercress, and dribbled with a splash of mustard vinaigrette. Not really beety…not really much of anything else…it just all sorta disappeared into far less than stunning.
Too Little Of Too Much...Was There Really Cauliflower Under There? California Cuisine Huh?

Fashion Subverts Function, Now THAT's California Cuisine!

From best to worst, the entrées started with the spice rubbed bigeye tuna taco platter served with slow-cooked black beans, cumin-scented rice, guacamole, charred tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa and fresh corn tortillas. You couldn’t really taste the tuna if you piled it into the tortilla but at least it tasted of something. We also tried a quinoa & forbidden black rice bowl with green curry sauce and local vegetables. The mushy veg didn’t do anything to help the quinoa and rice. I did very much enjoy the lightly sweet, warmly spiced, and super green curry. I’ll take the curry and the roasted cauliflower without the other stuff.


Not Terrible...That Was Still Coming

Sauce Helped Lackluster Rice & Quinoa Dish

After a meandering presentation on California cuisine we were told the special of the day is a copy of a dish from New York in which there are no Chinese ingredients but somehow, “presto”, turns out to taste like Chinese food. The braised shortrib ended up being more like chewy leather than Chinese, but the al dente Isrealei cous cous wasn’t bad. So average, saved only by sauce and pasta pearls, what ends up at the bottom?
Orecchiette & king crab was a disaster all around. Supposedly united with candied lemon, lardo, chives, parmesan, and fresno chilies, the dry and reheated pasta shells had not an iota of discernable flavor at all. That is except for three huge slices of fresno chili which against the void apparently tasted like fire. I didn’t get one…there were three rounds and four of us. Sad garbage.


Braised Dry & Chewy

I Would Say Hot Garbage...But Cold Reheated Garbage Is More Apt

We were treated to a couple of desserts as we were celebrating recent nuptials. The flat flaky salt crystals atop the chocolate chip cookie offered a wee bit of redemption. The huge square of brown butter rice crispy treat needed a fair bit more nuttiness to call it brown butter. Our first meal in Chicago was by far our weakest…which means good things are to come!

Salt Helped The Cookie

Not Enough Brown In The Butter To Make This Stand Out



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