Custom House

August 30 2012 - 1:00 PM

I’m always confused as to why Chicago’s theater district has a booming theater scene and a not so booming food scene to go with it. It has never been harder to find a good restaurant in Chicago in that particular area that isn’t a fast food chain. There are certainly the old stand-bys like the Walnut room, which for the price offers pretty decent white tablecloth fare – often highlighting signature dishes from TV celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless and Ming Tsai.

However, this particular theater night I was in the mood for something different. Since my show was playing at the Auditorium on Congress, I decided to try Custom House, which was a long overdue visit.  I was very excited by their pre-theater, three course, price fixed menu, which the hostess reviewed with me over the phone before I made our reservation.  For 46 dollars there were ample options of all courses – appetizer, entrée, side and desert.  All items are also on the menu individually for about 30 dollars per entrée.

The restaurant itself is great, with huge light filled windows and big, spongy cream-colored booths you could sit in comfortably for hours. And the service for a pre-theater meal was perfect – they kept track of the time and politely moved us along with our meal.

I started with the escarole salad with Romano and macadamia nuts. There’s really not much more to say about it than that – it was uninspired and a bit disappointing.

Next came the halibut in a creamed corn sauce. I chose it because of my memories of the most amazing creamed corn puree with pink slices of duck that I had last week at MK. This creamed corn presentation did not live up to that, but was still pleasant if maybe a bit salty. Accompanying the halibut were clams, shallots, bacon and sliced truffles. It sounds amazing, but while it was good, it was not amazing. My dining partner then informed me that meat is what the Custom House is known for, so I felt like I chose incorrectly. My tasting came with a side of baby carrots that were beautiful with orange yellow and purple carrots in light butter. We also ordered a side of scalloped potatoes that were sinfully delicious – I have no idea what was in them but I’m sure cream is on the top of the list. I also got a prosciutto and cucumber salad with cucumber sorbet that was very creative in presentation and flavor.

A refreshing lemon cheesecake with blueberry compote completed the tasting. We also ordered a chocolate desert that could best be described as a fudge brownie topped with chocolate mouse covered in chocolate sauce and marshmallow fluff. Both outstanding.

For seasonal, American cuisine I would go back to Custom House before the theater. Next time I’m getting the steak or the veal cheeks, or the ox tail.