Wednesday, February 13, 2008

May Street Market

1132 W. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL
(312) 421-5547

Finally, a foray into TOC's non-beef burgers, and a pretty accomplished one at that. First of all, props are due to Adam for orchestrating a dinner that's been a long time coming. Like Naha and David Burke's Primehouse, May Street Market's burgers are a lunch-only item, which makes them nigh-on impossible for us to get to during a regular work week. A few weeks ago, Adam called to inquire whether we could special-order their trio of duck, venison, and turkey mini-burgers for dinner. Whoever Adam spoke to said that it wouldn't be a problem, but, of course, when he called today, the hostess was completely flummoxed by this request (some begrudging respect goes to Naha, where at least they haven't waffled about the fact that they're just NOT going to make their burger for us outside of lunch hours). Eventually, she called back and relented,* so we blue-plate-specialed a 5:30 reservation and braved I 90/94 traffic from Hyde Park.

Commenters on LTH have already noted that the casual-sounding "May Street Market" doesn't jibe with the white-tablecloth, Laguiole-flatware kind of place this is. (Entrees range from the mid-twenties to the mid-forties.) The room is nice, but lacks any kind of unique vibe.

We had some appetizers. We started with a "Maytag blue cheesecake" which was exactly that, served with spiced pecans and arugula. This is kind of *a thing* there, which is primarily why we tried it. It was very good: the cheese itself is quite creamy and worked well as a flavor in the filling. I'd really have liked to see this on the dessert menu as a kind of compromise between a cheese plate and a sweet desert; it's a pretty rich choice for an appetizer, but we were both pretty hungry, so it helped to stave that off.

Our waiter recommended the braised short rib, and I just knew (thanks to our waiter's suggestion that we might want to accompany it with soup) that our $15 wasn't going to buy us much meat.**

It came with some matchsticks of pear, and the menu referenced a braise of stout, chocolate, and cauliflower. There was nothing relevatory about it. We both ate our bite and a half, mentally paid homage to our Jewish mothers/grandmothers who'd made us copious amounts of brisket gratis, and moved on.

Here's where the kitchen made a great move: they sent out two servings of grilled octopus for us to taste.

Served on a "marscopone potato risotto" (a diced-potato salad with a blob of great marscopone) with a spicy tomato sauce and slices of pickled chili, this was the appetizer of the night. The little cephalopods were perfectly grilled, al dente to the bite, and the cool and warm aspects of the accouterments played off each other nicely.

Then, the burgers:

Clockwise: fries, duck, turkey, venison.

First, the turkey burger, topped with avocado: great. The meat was dark and fatty, and perfectly charred. We actually thought it was the duck burger (just because it tasted so good) until our waiter corrected us. Next, the duck: even better. Fatter, darker meat, topped with caramelized figs, Maytag blue cheese, and arugula. Lastly, venison: perfect. Just great. More interesting than most beefburgers we've had, without any of the negative game-y connotations of my few experiences with venison. The creativity of the toppings calls to mind Kuma's at its finest: wine-poached pears, goat's cheese, and pancetta.*** Simply a fantastic sandwich. Buns were good, slightly egg-y and sturdy. Fries were above average, crispy with the right amount of oil.

If you go to May Street Market for lunch, you have the option of ordering any one of these burgers as a full-size sandwich (the venison and the duck are $12 each; the turkey burger is $9) with fries, OR the plate of three mini-burgers for $18. With the appetizers, the sampler was the right amount of food for both of us, but only a couple of bites of each felt like a tease. I'll grab that venison first, but between the duck and the turkey, I think I'd make my decision based on what toppings I was feeling more than anything else. It's hard to describe; the turkey and the duck didn't taste the same so much as they both tasted equally good, which is amazing considering how much arbitrarily tastier duck is than turkey. You might not want to wait on this, though: Chef Cheswick, who was nice enough to come out and say hello, mentioned nonspecifically that he may be mixing up availability of the burgers and the hours that May Street is open for lunch.

The free appetizer got to us; we felt we had to try the desserts, and we were glad we did.

This is Adam's pistachio-semifreddo-Napoleon thing, with a great chocolate mousse, pistachio ice cream, and a cookie bottom. The chocolate was intense, and the whole arrangement really accentuated the pistachio taste.

I had three sorbets: that's an orange, a "cassis" (some kind of black currant flavor), and a grapefruit-champagne. All were excellent (the orange was particularly good---"It tastes just like an orange!" I said), and so far as it goes, among the best sorbets I've ever had, and a great end to the meal.

*In order to get this special treatment, we did have to mention the nature of the project, so it stands to reason that the kitchen paid particularly close attention to our orders, although MSM seems like a classy place, and from what I've read on LTH and elsewhere, I'd be surprised to hear about them cutting corners on another visit or with anyone else.

**At a certain point, prices for non-rare foods in small quantities just start to become ridiculous, and I'm sorry to say that I think that this dish is toeing this line. I'd be surprised if this was four ounces of meat. In size, it reminded us of a course of three pieces of lamb served as part of a tasting menu at Alinea---where each course averaged out to be around $8 apiece. Just saying.

**Typing this, I realize that Kuma's February burger, Lair of the Minotaur, is strikingly similar, consisting of bourbon-poached pears, brie, and pancetta. Again, just saying.

1 comment: said...

fancy sliders? im sold...great post kids.

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