CHICAGO: WEST TOWN TAVERN
OK, so here is another sweeping generalization about your American restaurants.
Let’s talk about toilets shall we? The loo, the khazi, the john, the, if you will allow me, bogatarium. Whatever you want to call them, they seem to be in awfully short supply in American restaurants.
Now, in your London restaurant when it is time to point Percival at the porcelain, the men at least have it easy, a few stalls and more urinals than you can shake a you know what at. No need to wait, ever.
In restaurants in The States, however, many restaurants go for the single restroom gambit. If you are lucky they may have one each for men and women but even then it leads to the inevitable and embarrassing sight of grown men, hands in pockets trying not to make eye contact while queuing outside said restroom, desperately trying to hold it in.
All a bit silly really and particularly so in restaurants where enormous amounts have obviously been spent on the room.
OK, rant over.
But, I mention this particular bugbear tonight because, at The West Town Tavern, I spent a good few kidney challenging minutes holding it in while someone in the one gentlemen’s restroom took enough time having a pee to finish “War & Peace” and then write an essay on why it is easier to read if you just blip over the difficult Russian names.
It is, otherwise, a perfectly pleasant restaurant and chef/owners Susan & Drew Goss have put together a menu of comfortably familiar dishes which they attempt,with varying degrees of success, to cook to exceptional levels.
While the three of us looked at the menu, we shared a plate of one of their well known dishes, potato crisps doused in balsamic syrup, rosemary, truffle oil and parmesan cheese. At first bite, quite interesting, but becoming progressively less so and more cloying as you continue until much of the large mound served remains untouched.
Starters included a competent, if miserly, portion of calamari and an equally uninspiring flat bread with roasted mushrooms, mozzarella and more truffle oil. Neither were awful but neither will stay in the memory any longer than they will stay in my digestive tract.
Main courses were a little more distinguished with, well made gnocchi coming with pesto, cream, pine nuts and parmesan. A signature dish of pot roast served up beef braised in zinfandel to an unctuous collapse alongside crunchy autumnal vegetables.
The special of the day was a “Kobe” hamburger which was, of course, domestic wagyu and demonstrated once again how little is gained by trying to gussying up something which, if well made in the first place, is perfectly fine without the use of premium ingredients. The piece I tried was good, but any benefit gained from using high end beef is lost the moment you start slathering the meat with mayonnaise, ketchup and the other chose necessaire for a burger.
I was on the wagon after last night’s hotel sized cocktails, so stuck to water and iced tea. My companions had a couple of glasses of wine each which brought the bill to $130 for the three of us including tip and tax.
That is not excessive for a passable if hardly memorable meal. Hardly taking the piss you could say.
Now, talking of taking the piss. Don’t get me started on queuing for that restroom.