Thursday, June 02, 2005

chicago restaurant review: VTK


since i'm in chicago for a few days, i thought i would keep you posted on the good eats to be had in this city i fancy.

VTK stands for Vong's Thai Kitchen, the Chicago restaurant of renowned chef Jean- George Vongerichten, most known for his restaurant, Jean-George in New York City. In January, we partnered up with VTK to celebrate Thai New Year and National Hot Tea Month. A lot of work was put into some events and I really wanted to meet my counterpart at VTK who has been a joy to work with.

The outside of the restaurant feels very Asian, but in contrast to the sleek indoor decor, it's very spartan and feels like a hole in the wall on its facade. Dark wood and terracotta colored walls with bamboo accents make guests feel like they are indulging in a special ritual or secret locale. Though the crowds of people definitely indicate VTK is no secret.

Their menu had some very interesting choices but instead of venturing out into some of their more obscure dishes, I decided to ask the server, Patrick for his suggestions. The meal began with an amuse bouche of a shredded cabbage salad with a citrus finish. I felt very VIP when they brought over an appetizer on the house of tea smoked duck with lotus buns and hoisin sauce. the duck was smoked in our lapsang souchong black tea, which is a chinese black tea smoked over fir tree root. it has a very interesting taste profile with a nose strong like a cigar, but a taste that's smooth. lapsang souchong is a great tea in which to "smoke" poultry or fish. the combination of the sweet plum sauce combined with tender duck medallions, lightly smoked, shavings of scallions and warm, fresh, mildly sweet lotus buns. a tasty way to begin a meal. but of course, i had to save room for the main course, but sipped on a lemongrass soda.

patrick said their curry is very popular specifically the panang curry, which at first sounded kind of trite to me, since i live downstairs from my friend p-yi's thai food restaurant and i can order green or panang curry whenever i like. but he did say it was one of the most popular selections, so i ordered the panang curry with halibut. the dish had a spicier profile to it than i had remembered. usually this curry is slightly sweeter. the texture was rich and thick with peanuts grinded in. the presentation was impressive with a large round bowl and small mound of jasmine rice, the halibut filet positioned over the rice, a pale peach sauce with flecks of red pepper and vivid green beans. i enjoyed the dish, though i could not finish it.

dessert occurred MUCH later in my hotel room. i have a sweet tooth and a weakness for the word "valhrona" anytime i see it listed on a menu. so it was no surprise that dessert consisted of warm valhrona chocolate cake with coconut sorbet. still great and gooey in the middle hours later (with help from the mini fridge in my room). i can only imagine how yummy it would have tasted straight from the oven, since it was a molten chocolate cake done right. the past few times i have had the pleasure of enjoying a molten chocolate cake they have not been prepared correctly. see the edges and exterior should have the consistency of a brownie-like cake that's on the edge of the pan and the middle should be a cross between runny and gooey, like fudge oozing out. this time, even after some time of it sitting, the consistency of the center was right on, which was exciting.

all in all i would visit VTK again. they have the right combination of good food that's reasonably priced, an ambiance that's both intimate and fun, and knowledgeable, friendly staff.

menu recap:
--tea smoked duck/lotus buns/ hoisin sauce
--panang curry with halibut and jasmine rice
--warm vahlrona chocolate cake with coconut sorbet (would be great, paired with Orchid Oolong tea)
--lemongrass soda


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