Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0
Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003
06.14.07

Schwa

Restaurant Reviews


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-content/plugins/polls/polls.php on line 303

The many plates of Schwa

Turning onto Ashland from North Avenue, my first reaction was, the directions must be wrong. Granted, we were a little early, but there were no cars—well, except for the cars at the huge auto repair shop across the street, one with tall, multi-colored, plastic palm trees. There was a tiny Thai noodle shop, a Hispanic grocery store, and a small, dark bar. It didn’t look like a bad neighborhood, just kind of utilitarian—not the sort of place one would look for a high-end dining opportunity. We stopped in front of a building with a crumbling concrete stoop and an unretrieved morning paper. But the small, yellow building next door had the word “Schwa” over the black-fabric door, and that was the word we were looking for.

Walking through the little, black door, we passed into a small room with understated décor. A white-jacketed cook ducked out of the kitchen, took our wine to put in the cooler (this is a byob place), and motioned for us to take any one of the handful of tables, all set for two people. We sat in the front, but we were still only four two-tops away from the picture window that revealed the small, busy kitchen.

On the table, we found two menus, one listing five items, one listing ten. A few things on the short menu caught my eye, but I had heard for too long about the quail-egg ravioli, and that was only on the long menu. That made our choice easy. Our cook/server, Blake, took our order, and then vanished back into the kitchen.

Now we took the time to examine the room, which is painted ivory and avocado. Not the dark avocado green of the ‘70s, but more the color of good guacamole. I smiled at the little touches, like the votive candles on the tables and in the windows. It reminded me of decorating my first apartment from Pier 1. Slightly at odds with this were the small but elegant chandeliers hung in the two shuttered front windows. The table was set with solid-looking stainless cutlery and handsome wooden chopsticks. The water glass would be comfortable in any diner, and the wine glass would hold orange juice in another setting. But it all worked. It looked like a strict budget guided by true love.

We saw chef Michael Carlson and his sidekicks, Nathan and Blake, moving with swift purpose among the stainless steel appliances in the small kitchen on the other side of the glass. Blake soon emerged with our first course, identified on the menu as peas and carrots.

As soon as I describe the peas and carrots, you’ll probably think, “Oh, like Alinea or Moto.” Well, yes, in fact, and with good reason. Michael Carlson worked with Alinea’s Grant Achatz while Achatz was still at Trio in Evanston. Carlson also worked at Chicago’s Spiaggia and England’s Fat Duck. Not bad credentials. And yet, we were to learn as the evening wore on, Carlson’s food is his own, despite the family resemblance.

So back to the peas and carrots. The peas appeared in the form of an incredibly thin, fragile pea and wasabi “cracker,” which looked more like airy, deep green fabric and melted on the tongue like a sweet snowflake. The carrots were ginger pickled with lavender flower, offering a crunch that contrasted nicely with the pea. Not a dish to bring you back to the restaurant, but a tasty, whimsical start.

The next dish was a few more minutes in coming than one might expect in a bigger restaurant, but given that the cooks and chef also act as waiters and sommeliers, it was understandable. Actually, one of the really charming aspects of the evening was getting to see firsthand the combination of enthusiasm and delight in those who prepared our food, with genuine pleasure lighting their earnest, young faces when we praised a dish. And as the meal progressed, the dishes became increasingly praiseworthy.

Dish number two was an unexpected combination: oysters and oatmeal. Arrayed across a plate were a couple of small, sweet, lightly breaded, fried oysters, drizzles of creamy oatmeal flavored with both salt and maple syrup and studded with rum-soaked raisins, and a golden puddle of Hunza-raisin purée. In the corner was a small shot glass with a raw oyster in almond milk. The almond milk “shooter” was okay, but the oatmeal, raisin, and oyster combo was delicious, with the flavors and textures blending surprisingly well. The Hunza-raisin purée garnered a sincere “yum.”

The next course was the first “starred” course for me—one of the ones where my notes have a large asterisk in the margin. Everything about it was a delight. Carlson favors regional, seasonal foods, and this dish screamed, “Spring.” It was remarkably fragrant, with an almost floral quality, and visually stunning, with shades of green and white. A white bowl held bright green fava bean soup that was surrounded by ramps—pickled bottoms and bright green puréed tops—morels, and a bit of shaved pecorino. I was sorry I didn’t have a camera to record the ephemeral artwork before consuming it. But it was not just lovely, it was delicious, especially the soup.

Quail-egg ravioli is undoubtedly Schwa’s most famous dish. I’d had quail eggs lots of places, and I really couldn’t imagine what could be done to make them worthy of notice, let alone raves. None of the oohs and aahs I’d heard prepared me for the reality. Each wonderful little ravioli round contains not only the quail egg, which is cooked to a point of being perfectly smooth, but also buffalo ricotta, which has been reduced to almost a liquid state. Soft and creamy, the texture was sublime—but this was only part of the delight. The raviolis were bathed in brown butter and sprinkled with white truffle oil and parmigiano reggianno. Brown butter and truffles are heaven for me, but combined with the unctuous filling of the raviolis and the bite of the cheese, this dish transported me. (I saw a woman at a nearby table close her eyes and reflexively assume a yoga position suggesting the attainment of Nirvana when she popped her first ravioli into her mouth.)

I feared that everything would be downhill after this, but not so. It was as if the kitchen had just hit its stride. A dish of steelhead roe on a base of toasted pine nut puree, with yuzu and pine nut foam and gooseneck barnacles, was tasty and refreshing, with the lighter flavors kind of clearing the palate after the intensely rich ravioli.

This was followed by the fish course, an artistically arranged composition of halibut cheeks, cooked sous vide, artichoke confit, meyer lemon purée, and basil purée. The fish was incredibly tender, and the flavors and textures blended wonderfully.

The next dish was not merely artistic, it was artwork. The plate was splashed with gold, pink, green, and blue. Crispy, golden veal sweetbreads (normally not a favorite item, but sufficiently exceptional here to win me over) were complemented by plum purée, a dried plum chip, and plum shavings arrange like a flower; green cardamom marshmallow; and queso de valdeon, a pungent blue cheese.

And the next course was even better. Two forms of lamb, one cooked sous vide (intensely moist, tender, and flavorful), one braised (melted in my mouth), were both major wows. These were served with green curry, root beer-leaf puree (a South American plant, we were told), a small glass of spicy, house-made root beer, and Israeli couscous.

In the “how far over the top can a dish be” category, the cheese course was a winner. It was a Humbolt Fog cheesecake with a walnut and grains of paradise crust. The look of Humbolt Fog was recreated, not with ash, but with a layer of black truffle. Need I say more?

Dessert was fun. My friend and I got different desserts, with the instruction to trade half way through. I started with a plate that offered soft, warm pretzels with mustard and Anchor beer foam, turmeric ice cream, and dates filled with caramel and rolled in toasted hard pretzel bits and turmeric candy. This was simply wonderful. Every part of it worked,. Then we swapped plates, and I was faced with a red beet semifreddo and a Venezuelan chocolate semifreddo with bacon ganache. Both were sensational but, quite surprisingly, I liked the beet better. Perhaps it was the lightness, at the end of an intense meal.

A couple of tips” First, if you’re at Schwa, use the bathroom. It’s a small, attractively decorated, but otherwise unremarkable facility, but you have to go through the kitchen to get to it, and it’s always good to see where the magic happens. Second, Schwa is tiny, so reservations can be hard to get, but flexibility helps. Asking “When do you have an opening next week,” as opposed to, “Is there an opening this Friday” improves your chance of success.

Finally, back to comparisons. Quality of ingredients is pretty parallel for everyone at this level, as is passion. There is less “gee whiz” gear at Schwa than at Alinea or Moto. In fact, Blake admitted that their dishes were from CB2. However, the biggest differences, Schwa vs. Alinea: blaring rap music vs. quiet, cooks dashing out vs. ultra-polished service with myriad waiters and a sommelier at hand, hip vs. elegant. Regarding the food, the word that kept coming to mind is that the food at Schwa is “softer.” There is a gentleness to it. At Schwa, the music is louder, but the food is quieter. At Alinea, the food shouts. I still prefer Alinea, but I really loved Schwa. I’m glad I don’t have to choose between them.

3 Comments on "Schwa"

Lisa

Well now I’m very hungry and it’s only 9:30 in the morning. It’s going to be a very long day. Great review, Cynthia.



JEB60611@aol.com

A couple major things that u left out of your review which for me r important but defintely could be debated…..Alinea..Schwa…depends on your preference for real food….not that Alinea isn’t…not that Chef Atchatz isn’t a master…just a diffference between price/intimacy./flavour…. I guess some of Schwa’s plusses is that the food tastes so good, like amazing french cuisine although with different techniques, u want to go back… not to say that Alinea is a one trick pony…but it is definitely more polished, service, decor…….so it really depends what u r looking for….Chef Atchatz is DEFINITELY not afraid to push boundaries but he is looking to run a 5 star restaurant all around……I f ur looking for cutting edge on flavour………Schwa might be your better bet…It really depends on your criteria…both r cutting edge…..



Cynthia

You bet — it’s always a matter of criteria and preference. And I actually hit most of your points — Alinea more polished, Schwa more intimate, both great. However, I don’t know that I’d say Schwa tops Alinea for cutting edge on flavor. My advice would be don’t choose between them; enjoy them both. However, if price is an issue, Schwa does have the edge there — at least if you drink wine with dinner. BYOB is always going to trump wine pairings, if cost is the criterion.



Comments

Please Leave a Comment!




Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.





Features/Archive
Podcast Interviews
Feeds
Everytime Hungry Magazine is updated, you can be notified. Just click on your preferred feed (What's a Feed?) below:

Chef Interview Podcasts Only

All Hungry Magazine Content

Theme By fruta planta