Roister may have served me one of my favorite meals ever on Thursday Night. It wasn’t what you’re seeing above – that’s the Chicken Dinner that’s only available on weekends. The food my friend and I had was so overwhelmingly sensuous that I wrote my first ever restaurant review for it.
I don’t do that often, because I’m not a food critic. I go for the experience of something that’s already a favorite of mine, or something that promises to be a fantastic, unforgettable taste treat. I almost couldn’t put what the food was like into sensible words at first, but labels like Alchemy and Synergy come to mind, because at first the flavors start as recognizable, then they pull together into something new, and then the entire dish takes on a flavor that I do not have the vocabulary to describe – every dish had a unique and delicious flavor entirely its own.
Here’s a slightly altered version of the review:
I like taking friends out for “adventures” to the many superb restaurants in Chicago. Last night I had a friend come with me to Roister. I’d been there before for lunch, but never had a chance to do dinner, and this was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had.
My dining partner is a petite person, and I don’t like to walk away stuffed, so we ordered 2 appetizers and 2 entrees to share, and split a desert.
Turns out the portions were larger than I thought, but the size of the dishes were not what drove me to ecstasy. It was the flavors.
The first appetizer was their pasta and clams. The first bite seemed a little salty for the strength of the herbs, but the salt rapidly dissolved into the buttery and slightly acidic sauce that the herbal flavors prepared my body for. The flavors lost their individuality by the third bite, creating a new and unique sensation that shut down the analytical level of my sensory self. Then the music and our conversation started throwing my physical senses into hyperdrive.
The second appetizer was the foie gras toast. If you ever have a meal at Roister, make sure this goes on your plate. From the first bite to the last, it was something that I almost couldn’t believe I was eating – the comment we were sharing that sticks in my mind was “out of this world.” They managed to do something with flavor that I would have never dreamed up on my own.
The main courses were the Maple Salmon and the Pork Butt.
The Salmon was unbelievable, and I know a bit about cooking Salmon, having lived in far Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t tell how they did it, but again, my analytical self was off-line because I was having too much fun in a safe place. The food, music, service and company brought me closer and closer to foodgasm. Like a character in a Japanese Anime.
Then there were the chips. I wanted to text friends in the UK and Scotland to tell them “You are not allowed to come to Chicago unless you come with me to Roister and see what they do with Fish and Chips”, but then the combined textures on the fork hit with another twist on this siege against the normally powerful wall of at least 3 of the 5 senses, and maybe 2 or 3 outside that range. Another “don’t try this at home” dish that took Salmon to a whole new level.
The Pork Butt – well, I didn’t know what to expect, but the flavor profile and the textures reminded me of West Asian food in a way – like what one might expect from ancient chefs in Samarkand or Baghdad, if they ate Pork there. It was vibrant. Spicy but not, sweet but not; savory as all get-out, tender and crunchy. It carried the flavors not as individuals, but in a synergistic way – a flavor/texture experience that couldn’t be created any other way – and retained its profile until I put my fork down.
Had the candy bar for desert. Another “how did they do that” moment. It’s like they create flavors for each item on the menu in a way that you engage the dish, not the ingredients and their combination. They turn the many into one. Sure there are other ways to go into an altered state of consciousness, but darn you guys…
I will be back for dinner, and lunch, over and over again. Especially during the gaps between convenient reservations at other places, like Next (next door) and a few others.
Roister is a restaurant that should not be missed by anyone with functioning taste buds.