Monday, August 11, 2014

Knife & Tine

When you hear that the chef is a Moto alumnus, you may think of food in test tubes or chemistry tricks that make sour things taste sweet.   That’s what I thought before I ate at Baume and Brix last year, but here’s what I know now: this particular Moto alumnus uses straightforward, varied cooking techniques to get the absolute best out of seasonal vegetables.  Sure, there are some creative liberties taken too, but at its core, Nate Parks’ food simply brings out the best in well-chosen ingredients.

“Charred sweet pepper bisque” tasted like just that.  Wonderfully sweet peppers with subtle smokiness, enlivened by some herb oil and thinly sliced leeks.  A somewhat thick, mouth-coating texture without tasting heavy.  Maybe there was some fancy Moto-esque thermomolecular reverse lipidation or something going on.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that this was a delicious, warming bowl of soup.

Cauliflower risotto showed further evidence that if there’s one “trick” Park has mastered, it is charring vegetables.  The charred purple florets that garnished this dish were sensational.  Even more impressive was the variety of ways in which cauliflower had been prepared, each bringing its own element to balance out the others.  There were tiny pickled white florets to provide tartness, dried cauliflower chips that tasted quite sweet, and the charred purple florets bringing more sweetness and a touch of bitter.  Plumped golden raisins and a scant scattering of walnut pieces complemented it all fantastically.  As good as this dish tasted, it was even more of a marvel to look at, with a color palate reminiscent of those remarkable photos floating around of Alain Passard’s food.

On the more “out there” side of the menu, Parks is serving something called “Pimento Burrata”.  Burrata is one of those fantastic, just-leave-it-alone products, such that this was a dish about which I had plenty of skepticism.  It appeared that the inside, creamy part of the burrata had been removed, blended with elements of pimento cheese, and then stuffed back into the burrata skin, along with a crispy, thin piece of dark rye inserted at the equator.  Mixed greens with pimento vinaigrette surrounded the alien-ish cheese ball.  Was it good?  Yeah, it was quite compelling, actually.  Better than a plain ball of burrata with, say, a tomato?  Probably not, but you can only that so many times in a summer.

The only dish that I wouldn’t order again unless it changes was the Sweet Corn Humitas.  The flavors here were wonderful, but texturally, it just didn’t work for me.  The humitas were formed into U10 scallop sized discs, then seared in a pan before serving.  They were dry and dense.  Again, excellent flavor, but I think this one could use some tinkering.
Save room for dessert.  It’s a limited menu of just a few pies, but if the dutch apple pie I tried is representative, you don’t want to miss it.  As good as any apple pie in town.  It’s big enough for 4 people to share, or for two to order and take home a piece for breakfast.

As with Baume and Brix, Knife & Tine has an interesting wine list with a focus on less common domestic places such as Michigan and New York State.  We had a remarkable $38 bottle of Finger Lakes chardonnay that paired very with the food.  It’s nice to see a place like this doing something a little different than the norm with the wine list.
The high ceilings and comfortable table spacing make this a very nice place to linger over a meal.  Service was attentive without being overbearing.  A couple of people who looked like owners or managers came by to check on us, and they seemed genuine about the desire for feedback, and their hope to become a neighborhood fixture.  I enjoyed Knife & Tine a lot, and will do my part to help them make sure that happens.

Knife & Tine
1417 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
773) 697-8311

No comments:

Post a Comment