Each summer, if you're lucky, a trip to the beach offers a chance to enjoy sand between your toes and waves lapping at the shore. This simple combination pretty much defines summer and was the inspiration for Thomas Lents’ latest menu at Sixteen. "Inspirations from Where Land Meets Water" takes a look at surf 'n' turf through a gourmet lens with multiple courses of seafood smartly paired with meat.
The meal begins with an adorable display of picnic-style snacks. Elote is served via single kernels of corn on skewers with aioli and seasoned parmesan; fried quail and pickled quail eggs stand in for chicken; and push pops the size of a pinky finger are flavored with sangria. The tiny dishes, served on a red-checkered tablecloth, prompt diners not to take the fine-dining fare that follows too seriously.
The decision to explore the convergence of land and sea was driven by the restaurant's location on the shore of the Chicago River. This led Lents to play with international dishes, which often use flavors of both land and sea. His interpretation of pho, with spiced lamb and cuttlefish noodles, is served with a satisfyingly rich and fatty both. Meanwhile, beef tartare is surrounded with Ostera caviar and served with oyster leaf, mussels and green curry.
Restaurant director and sommelier Dan Pilkey also was able to have some fun with beverage selections from the costal regions of France, Spain and New Zealand. One of the more interesting pairings is sherry from Spain called Orleans Borbon Manzanilla Fina. Originally reserved for Spanish royalty, this sherry has a light straw color with a thick viscosity and notes of sea salt. The showstopper, however, is rolled out in a cart and served from a keg (we told you not to take this menu too seriously). It's an Eric Bordelet Sidre Tendre from Normandy, France.
Sixteen's nine-course summer tasting menu (it includes two desserts, which continue the land/sea theme) costs $185 per person. Wine pairings may be added for $125 or $750 for reserve pairings. The summer menu debuted last week and will run until the fall. Check out the video produced by the restaurant's team for more tempting details.