King's County Tap's New Fall Menu on Full Display

October 31 2015 - 1:49 AM

Almost by accident my first visit to King’s County Tap occurred.  It was a sunny summer afternoon, and a group of us from softball wandered over from our nearby field into the Lincoln Park restaurant in search of postgame food and beer.  One glance at the menu – scallops, lentils, farm-fresh and rather gourmet items – announced that this eatery was hardly going to cater to the tater-tots crowd which dominates much of the Lincoln Park bar scene.  The local-heavy craft beer list communicated the restaurant’s seriousness of purpose: this place was seeking sophisticated palates.  I left knowing that a return visit, one in which I was sporting something a bit more refined than dusty athletic gear, was in order.   2015-10-08 20.38.42 (1)

Accordingly, when given the chance to return to King’s County for a prix fixe dinner showcasing their fall menu, I jumped at it. Or, you could say that I walked into it.  Given that each of the six courses would include a beer, wine, or cocktail paring, I hoofed it to King’s, a decision which ultimately enhanced the dining experience by heightening the establishment’s “neighborhood” feel.    This is the essence of their vision, as implemented by Chef Chris Bromley.   They aim to challenge palates with unique takes on cuisine, and provide a comfortable dining experience with a touch of gourmet, all while maintaining a comfortable, casual atmosphere.

Our courses were flavorful dishes built upon simple, sustainable ingredients.  Starting us off was the chicken-liver mousse with fig mostarda and walnuts.   A pleasant but not overwhelming saltiness in the mousse awakened the palate, which had a firm-yet-supple creaminess which, in chocolate-pudding-like fashion, made you anticipate each bite.  Prosecco succeeded as a sensible pairing with the creamy mousse, as its slight sweetness and acidic bite freshened the palate.  Round two, the beet tartare, which was mealy, like beet mashed potatoes or beet grits, was thoughtfully balanced out with pickled fennel, giving the dish a healthy crunchiness and a refreshing hint of tang.  Spanish white wine is a near-foolproof paring option, and the chef intelligently backed his beet brainchild with a pleasantly dry Campus Reales Airen.

2015-10-08 21.57.22Course three began with an unexpected and startling turn: beer.  Lagunitas Imperial Pilsner ushered in this round with a creamy texture, a touch of sweet malts, and a lively hop bite.   This helped counterbalance the rather complex accompanying dish, a skillet stuffed with white beans, octopus, and lamb sausage.  Overall the dish functioned like an English country dish, with the beans supplying the texture as would potatoes in a shepherd’s pie.  This certainly displayed the chef’s desire to provide the expected neighborhood crowd with a twist on something that still seemed accessible and familiar.

Next up was the night’s winner, a roasted sturgeon fillet which was as tender as a soufflé and smelled wonderfully of tomatoes.  Goose Island, The Ogden, a Belgian trippel, brought playful fruitiness and crisp acidity to rich lakefish.  The side accompaniment of leeks and fennel saffron was akin to a relish.  Fifth was the New York strip backed by dangerously flavorful cheddar polenta that carried a cream-sauce texture.  This portion was graced with shitake mushrooms of which I could have eaten an entire pot.   Paired with this course was the wine of the night, Ippolitio 1845 Calabrise, an Italian red.  Its dark color, violet flavors and aromas, and round mouthfeel were entrancing.

2015-10-08 22.12.08We finished the menu schedule with a dark chocolate chess pie, which enchanted the palate with a crunchy crust that gave way to a silky, brownie-like interior.  And to top it off, quite literally, was salt-and-pepper ice cream. Devastating and unfairly so.  A unique cocktail, which was sort of a licorice-flavored, low-carbonation soda, this provided a smooth undercurrent to the dense off-sweet pie.

Physically, King’s County feels open and spacious, like a modern cabin.   Huge windows keep you connected to the outside world, and there’s ample outdoor seating when the weather permits.   Hey, this is Chicago, you know.  But on one of our many cold nights, there’s a long, roomy bar for cozying up, and 16 craft beers are regularly tapped.  At night the lighting is moderately dark; you can see across the room but the atmosphere isn’t cheapened by overly bright lighting.

I’m informed that the restaurant’s name is, in part, an ode to the artists of Brooklyn.  Fortunately, King’s County’s owners decided on painting the Chicago restaurant canvas with a rather elegant and quite comfortable eatery.

–          M. Sheppard

King’s County Tap

2576 N. Lincoln Ave.

Chicago, IL