Althea Chicago Restaurant Review
ALTHEA BRINGS THE FUTURE OF FOOD TO SAKS FIFTH AVENUE CHICAGO UNDER THE DIRECTION OF RENOWNED CELEBRITY CHEF AND PLANT-BASED PIONEER, MATTHEW KENNEY. THE RESTAURANT OFFERS A DIVERSE VARIETY OF ORGANIC, GLOBALLY INSPIRED AND THOUGHTFULLY SOURCED INGREDIENTS, WITH THE MENU INCLUDING FRESH INTERPRETATIONS OF TRADITIONAL DISHES ALONGSIDE SOME OF KENNEY’S NAMESAKE CLASSICS.Matthew Kenney Website
Althea Chicago Restaurant Review
I recently went to ALTHEA with my husband and it was such a fun time. First off, just getting let into the restaurant with security guards when SAKS FIFTH AVENUE is closed at night was a unique experience. From the mixed reviews on feeling like you are in a mall space, I was not sure how it was going to feel. However, I thought it was fun and different. It really felt like I was going to a unique hidden gem as I was passing the tennis shoes to get into an upscale vegan restaurant.
When I entered the restaurant, my husband and I got seated in the far back section by the window. It was so beautiful to sit and eat amongst the city skyline. Although some tables were better than others, unless you are seated right by the Saks/Restaurant entrance which I would not want, most of them offered a nice ambiance. I enjoyed the dried flowers and the battery/USB operated candlelight on the table as well. Everything seemed to be extra pretty with the night sky glowing in. So I will say, if you go, I would go in the evening when SAKS is closed and the sky is looking extra sparkly.
I read it was Smart Casual somewhere before we went. It read something like if you are conscious of what you look like going in, chances are its perfect. I could not describe it better. There was a wide range of dress in the restaurant. The younger people were very trendy with jeans, cool sneakers but still put together, there was a good amount of dressy casual, and there was also your after work business attire in suits and dresses as well. It all seemed to fit in which was part of the charm for me. It didn’t feel stuffy one bit. I admired the fashion forward as well as those just on a casual dinner date.
10+ stars all of the way. Truly some of the best service I have ever received. Our waitress was sweet and helpful when we needed her, but gave us our space to just enjoy ourselves. It seems like the whole staff works together which I really like. Our waters were always filled, dishes taken away at the right times, someone there when you needed them, and all without it feeling intrusive in any way.
We each ordered a glass of red wine from the 3 to choose from. I ordered the Pinot and my husband the Cabernet. They were both very good for a Pinot and a Cabernet. If these are your wines of choice, I think you will really enjoy them. With this said I prefer drier wines so I would have enjoyed a Tempranillo, Chianti, or something similar on the menu, but I understand the others appeal to more. I did look online prior to going and they had a 4th chilled red that was listed on their menu which I had in my head to get, but it was not offered when we went. Not a big deal.
For starters, I had the Side Salad (listed further down on the menu under Sides), my husband had a Al Pastor Taco, and we both shared the Crab Cakes. The side salad was simple but very delicious. It was not overly dressed, but had great flavor and was very fresh. My husband really enjoyed his taco. I had one bite so I could taste the flavors and I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing flavor of the mushrooms. I did not care for the pineapple salsa with it, but the mushroom avocado mix was very delicious.
The crab cakes had the same texture and similar flavor to a real crab cake which was really impressive! Although they were good, I pushed aside the relish. It was with this dish that I realized that they seem to be heavily forward on the pickled/fermented/vinegar condiments and ingredients in their dishes. The heavily pickled flavors really took over some of the dishes for me which my body did not agree with. If you like extra pickled/vinegar foods though, I would think you would enjoy both the taco and the crab cakes.
Oh, and everything is plated just beautifully as you can see.
We ordered two mains – Kelp Noodle Cacio E Pepe and Risotto- for the two of us to share. They gave us each a small plate (without having to ask) so we could just serve ourselves portions of each as we wished.
There was something about the risotto that had a strange oil taste, but I could not put my finger on it. It is a restaurant with very fresh and high quality ingredients so I can’t imagine them using any poor quality oil one bit, but something shined forward in the dish that just tasted a bit off for both my husband and I.
I thought the Kelp Noodle Cacio E Pepe was so delicious. Out of the two entrees, this was by far my favorite. The flavors were exceptional and if it were not for the fermented taste that this dish still had, I would have eaten more of it. This is one of their more popular dishes and I can see why.
We almost did not order dessert and that would have been a big mistake. The Lemon Berry Cheesecake was the star of the show for me. It was crazy good and I think the best dish of the night. If I can’t figure out how to somewhat replicate it at home someday, I may just have to go back. It was amazing and it was my husband’s favorite of the night as well. My husband ordered a cappuccino along with it and it was the perfect way to end our dinner date.
If it were not for the heavily pickled/fermented forward foods, I would be back in a heartbeat! If this is something you are not sensitive to and enjoy, I highly suggest Althea. Also, you do not need to be vegan to go. If you are any type of foodie, I think you would find something you really enjoy on the menu. If I did go back, I would just ask the waiter or waitress for help in steering clear of the pickled forward dishes. From glancing at the menu again, it looks like there is a soup and a tomato zucchini lasagna that I would very much enjoy. Otherwise, I could just eat a few of those lemon cheesecakes….
Even though many of the dishes didn’t agree with me, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and ambiance of the restaurant. It kind of felt like I was in some cool Tokyo rooftop restaurant even though I have never been to Tokyo. HA. You can tell it is run under a renowned plant-forward celebrity chef as there is a lot of love, care, and details that went into this restaurant and everything that they serve.
Side note – I recommended ALTHEA to a foodie friend and she absolutely LOVED it!
Grateful you are following along! xx Riane
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