Monday, December 21, 2009


We met up with our dear friends Jon & Susana for dinner on Saturday night, and they chose Shawn McClain's first restaurant (opened 2001), Spring. I didn't have time to do research prior to Saturday night, nor did I remember my experience when we went in 2001... so I didn't expect anything (except a larger-than-typical bill, and Top Chef-like cuisine).

Shawn McClain is the chef/partner behind Spring (homage to seafood, opened 2001), Green Zebra (homage to vegetables, opened 2004), and Custom House (modern interpretation of the classic steakhouse, opened 2005). All three restaurants are very popular, and highly raved by magazines, the public, etc. He is insistent on the quality of ingredients, and having an innovative, unique take on food.

The restaurant was dim, and all I had was my iphone, so I couldn't take any photos. Here are the choices we made, and thoughts:

Amuse Busche - small tasting of warm soup (I forgot what it was, but the flavors were delicious & intensive. On a cold night, this welcoming shot was nice & inviting to future courses).

"Bread" service - big breakable crackers with mashed beans in sesame oil - I appreciate bread over crackers, but this was tasty (I think the 4 of us ate a bit too much of this)

Kusshi Oyster 'bloody mary'/grated fresh wasabi 3/ea

We each had 2 of these $3/pc oysters, but weren't satisfied/pleased at all. It lacked that fresh ocean, remarkable oyster flavor. I've had much, much better (especially memorable are the oysters at NYC's Craft).

Scallion & Peekytoe Crab Pancakes toasted sesame/grilled scallion salad 12.

meh. I wanted to like this, but it was just mediocre. I especially didn't appreciate the sauce on top that reminded me of those americanized bottles of 'hot & sour' sauces.

Crispy Pork Belly Chinese steamed buns/ pickled cucumber/ Thai basil & cilantro 13.

I thought the buns were fresh, chewy, and delicious. The pork belly was slow-cooked to tender perfection. But they also used that 'hot & sour' sauce, which, again, I didn't appreciate.

Seared Maine Sea Scallops braised oxtail/wild mushrooms/sweet soy/baby bok choy 32.

I think there were 6 pcs of jumbo scallops on this dish, so the portion size is pretty good. Everything was cooked well, but the sauce was too sweet, and closely similar with actual Chinese dish (but it's not). Oxtail is tender, but again, I didn't see the innovation, so I wasn't impressed.

Pacific Sea Bass peekytoe crab & pumpkin seed ‘succotash’/Anson Mills grits/apple 31.
note: "succotash" - (from Narragansett msíckquatash, "boiled corn kernels"[1]) is a food dish consisting primarily of corn and lima beans or other shell beans.

The fish was cooked perfectly, and the husband loved the succotash & grits.

Tea: Pu-er $5/pot. I appreciate the use of fresh tea leaves instead of tea bags. Aside from the slightly difficult-to-pour pot, it was good.

Complimentary: hot chocolate with Chai (thick, heavy, delicious ending)

Services: accomodating, friendly, comfortable

Ambience: peaceful, simple, nice

Prices: After all of the above plus 12 drinks, a dessert, duck entree, and salad, our bill came out to be $100/person (including tax & gratuity)

Overall, everything was prepared perfectly. However, I just felt like it was too Asian. It wasn't just asian-influences or interpretations, it was too closely similar to actual dishes, yet it wasn't authentic.. so it kind of just wasn't impressive to me.

Although I probably won't go back to Spring, I do appreciate his insistence on fresh ingredients (it shows), and would love to see how he prepares vegetables at Green Zebra, and perhaps his modern steakhouse, Customs House.

Spring A Restaurant

2039 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647-6380
(773) 395-7100

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