Our most recent Chefs Table event took place at Ani, one of Chicago’s newest and most superb Japanese restaurants. I recently reviewed Ani and was thrilled that we were able to put together a Chefs Table at this wonderful location. The restaurant is located at 3056 North Lincoln and is a perfect spot for a pre-show meal if you’re headed to the Athenaeum, Theatre Wit, or Stage 773 – all of which are nearby.
The 25 guests at this Chefs Table were treated to a six-course tasting menu hosted by Chef Shin Matsuda and owner Ty Fujimura. The most exciting part of the event was the beverage pairings. Each of the six courses was paired with a different sake, offering the guests a chance to learn something about the many different types of sake. For me, a fan of fine wine, sake has always been rather a mystery. After this event, I know a great deal more and have a strong desire to go out and explore the fascinating world of this surprisingly complex beverage.
In fact, if you want to know more about sake then you should visit either Ani or its companion restaurant Arami. Both have some of the most comprehensive and varied sake menus you will ever see . . . and the staff at both places has incredible knowledge and experience with pairing sake and Japanese food.
For this event we enjoyed the following courses and pairings:
- Hirame (sashimi with lime) and Maguro (temaki with avocado), paired with Seikyo Takehara – this gave us a great sample of both the excellent fresh sashimi and a gorgeous hand roll.
- Vegetable Shumai (napa cabbage, carrot, chevre), paired with Hakugyokko – this one was notable because of the addition of goat cheese into the shumai. Inventive and very tasty, also a superb complement to the Hakugyokko sake.
- Tako Yaki (octopus beignets, tonkatsu sauce, bonito, kizami), paired with Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo - the beignets are flight and fluffy, filled with the octopus. The tonkatsu sauce adds a sweetness and the bonito flakes and kizami add a little savory and salty to the mix.
- Brussel Sprouts (togarashi, house soy, bonito flakes), paired with Kukusui Kunko – the bonito flakes actually jump around a little as they heat up from the Brussel sprouts!
- Enoki (bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms) and Buta Hara (cured pork belly), paired with Ichi No Torii and Asahi – both of these offerings are part of their robata grill menu. If you like smoky flavor and love mushrooms, you must order the Enoki. Wow! This was also the only course where the sake was also joined by a beer chaser. The beer was a perfect pairing with the smoky bacon flavor.
- Panna Cotta (sesame milk chocolate panna cotta, yuzu marmalade, shortbread, melon, sesame seeds), paired with Soma No Tengu – surprisingly, sake pairs very well with dessert!
Chef's Table Events bring foodies together in an exclusive, intimate setting. Each restaurant we visit takes care to show off its best, and each experience is exquisite, unique and is an ideal way to explore Chicagoland's culinary scene without spending a fortune.