Eat Local Out
As I mentioned the other day in my bitterness, I have Mado on the mind for reasons that will be revealed some other time. With Mado on the mind I had practically no choice but to visit for a meal. As they say in the critic notebook, you gotta hit Mado today 'cause you might not be able to taste that menu tomorrow.
Satuday night was Spanish night at Mado. I know Rob's more sophisticated than 1080, but he must have been reading something that got Spain on his mind. Maybe he's a Euro soccer fan. And what made Saturday Spanish day at Mado. Well let me put it another way, maybe it was not so much Spain on his mind but incredibly good deals on Marcona almonds and chick peas. Each appeared on several menu items. I've enjoyed Mado's take on octopus before, so an appetizer of octopus and chick pea puree appealed, but you know what? While chick peas abounded on the menu, we never had one.
We did get some almonds, and you know what? As much as I love almonds generally, and Marcona's specifically, I found there too many in the dish we sampled. On the other hand, that particular dish was probably the best thing I've eaten at Mado. Coddled egg with spring vegetables. He coddles the egg for the barest of times. I do not know if he uses some fancy contraption, but in the end product is just this side of set. It is not, however, gross. The runny egg mixes with a strong dollop of butter in a bowl with the freshest of peas and favas plus the almonds. The almonds add nice crunch, textural contrast as we critics say, but ultimately I would have liked a few less as the almonds distracted. Poor me.
Poor me having to eat at Mado. Is it cliche to say Rob Levitt is hitting his stride? Improving each day? Getting his groove. Maybe it's all the advice I leave him on the blog [ed. say what?]. Although I am supposed to say you cannot have the same dishes I tried when talking about Mado, I have to say that my wife and I had versions of dishes we've already tried. In both cases, we liked the current versions even more. With the hanger steak, there seemed little space to improve, but Mado did. The Chef never came out to shmooze, so I never got the chance to ask if he changed beef suppliers. I found this week's hanger steak fattier, i.e., richer, a good thing in steaks. The pike wisely included a sauce this time, a well executed walnut. The strong flavor of the nuts bounced well off the mild fish. Of course if the Chef came out to shmooze, I would have bugged him to use local black walnuts instead of standard Cali-nuts. I suppose there's some room for improvement at Mado.
I hope the Chef did not stay in the kitchen because we did have one wee problem. See, the pike was cooked about perfect. A big hunk of fish, the skin crisped, about 1/2 cooked until just done. Then, we got to the other half. That's where we get to the about. It stopped being done. Freshwater fish is not the fish for medium rare (and less). In the end, however, I cannot complain too much as they fixed it, re-sauced it completely and added more of the cauliflower garnish.
I aint complaining about the rest of the dishes that graced our table: duck rilletes with just enough French espice to offset their heaviness; and a smoked steelhead trout with beets. Did I say above that the coddled egg was the best dish ever at Mado? What about the trout, an amazing collection of flavors from smokey to salty to sweet. I could have eaten a big moundful. We started intense with those appetizers, we finished light and etheral with a coffee pana cotta. If Rob had had time to shmooze, I would have told him I was one happy eater.
Eat local, eat local out. Mado's at 1647 N Milwaukee. Reservations advised, (773) 342-2340. For now, it's still BYOB. It's always seemed like a bargain--do order more than you think you need, the prices are that good--and BYOB makes it that much more of a deal.
I read the post to my wife, as I do most of my breakfast posts these days. She's not in favor of the rhetorical flourishes of this review, but we'll agree to disagree on that. She does bring up a good point though. She says, what they hell am I doing talking up almonds and chick peas when you want to emphasize the localness of Mado. For instance, she says, "what about the cauliflower with the pike, how can you call that just a garnish." I guess my short answer would be that the almonds and chick peas do not distract from the localness of the Mado menu. It is still nearly wholly derived from what happens to be in the market that day. Spanish day aside, there is no place right now in Chicago more committed to such an up-to-date menu; that and his ability to use local animals, the whole beast, make Rob Levitt a Chef to admire as well as enjoy.