Every so often, a restaurant surprises me. A few weeks ago, I attended a party to preview the opening of Eden, a new 95-seat restaurant at 1748 West Lake Street. The food was excellent and the ambiance charming. That did not prepare me, however, for the superlative experience I had last week at dinner.
It is not hyperbole when I say that this is one of the finest meals I have had in Chicago – ever.
Principal Jodi Fyfe, Chef/Partner Devon Quinn, and Chef de Cuisine Miles Schaefer deliver stellar cuisine and a rustic ambiance that fuses Mediterranean and New American styles. The restaurant draws inspiration from Portugal, Spain, Lebanon, and many more Mediterranean areas. Chefs Quinn and Schaefer have a strong commitment to hyper-local ingredients and they draw from the onsite 1800-square foot greenhouse to keep the menu fresh and flavorful year-round. The greenhouse means that they have fresh garnishes all year. When the weather warms up, they will expand to begin growing more of their own produce. You cannot get more hyper-local than this.
At our recent visit, my guest and I sampled:
- Umami Doughnuts – In the short time Eden has been open, these have become one of their “signature” dishes. The beignets are stuffed with braised striploin and coated with a savory blend of spices. They are served alongside a dish of frothy whipped goat cheese. If you get nothing else on your first visit, you must sample these. They are a totally unique, standout item.
- Castelvetrano Olives – The house-cured olives are served with peppadew peppers, celery, and preserved lemon. They rest in a dish with a puree of tomatoes and spices. The result is rather like a deconstructed Bloody Mary. Normally, I find olives on a menu to be a rather pedestrian item but these are absolutely superb.
- Pork Tagliatelle – Those who know me well understand that I am not much of a pasta eater. Our server convinced us to try this dish and I am forever grateful. The pasta is made freshly in-house, leaning rather heavily on egg yolks – smooth, densely flavorful, yet still light. The sauce was outstanding – slightly spicy but well-balanced by the inclusion of tart apple, marcona almond, and arugula. This is one of those dishes that has you stealthily looking around the restaurant to make sure nobody is looking while you lick the plate clean.
- Portuguese Spiced Chicken – One of my personal restaurant rules is that I never order anything I could easily prepare at home. That means I rarely order chicken. In this case, I could never duplicate the extraordinary medley of flavors in this dish. The chicken was juicy and permeated with the blend of Mediterranean spices. It was served with potato puree, gribenes, roasted carrot, leeks, and a citrus-thyme chicken jus.
- Market Fish – Although the specific fish will change based on what is fresh and available, the current preparation will likely remain on the menu for a while. The perfectly-prepared fish fillet is served with chestnut puree, apple, sand pear, fermented kohlrabi, rye berries, and caraway. The meat was juicy, the skin crispy, and each bite was different as I experimented with various combinations of the ingredients. If you are a fan of fish, this one is a must.
Preview the full menu here.
The beverage program is equally well-curated by General Manager and Sommelier Arif Rahman and Mixologist Alex Rydzewski. Each of them has crafted a fascinating mix of pairings to create a symbiotic experience with the stellar food. Check out the drink menu here. Finally, Pastry Chef Stefano Tulipano offers a small yet superb list of freshly-created dessert items that also draw on the idea of fresh and hyper-local. We sampled the Chocolate Crunch – a gorgeous combination of chocolate cake, tropical fruit reduction, toffee brittle, chocolate gelato. See a sampling of dessert menu here.
Eden’s design embraces craftsmanship and local resources brimming with rustic touches and authentic finishes. Original exposed brick speaks to the neighborhood’s industrial history, while graphic black and white tile enhance the exclusive chef’s counter and expansive bar. Offering two private dining rooms, Sage and Celadon, Eden offers an ideal setting for any large party. Later this year, they plan to open a rooftop space which will accommodate an additional 200 guests.
For those traveling from the Western Suburbs, Eden is located just minutes off of I-290 with a large, free parking lot. Let me repeat that. Free parking! If you are on public transit, Eden is seconds from the Ashland Green Line and just a short walk from any of the Ashland and Damen bus lines.
The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate. The ambiance provides a sense of being in a Mediterranean haven in the midst of Chicago. The food is extraordinary. It simply does not get any better than this. Michelin Guide – are you listening?
Eden is located at 1748 West Lake Street, almost precisely halfway between Ashland and Damen, just a few blocks from the United Center. The restaurant is now open for dinner Tuesday-Wednesday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. For reservations or additional information visit http://edeninchicago.com or call (312) 366-2294.