photo credit: Sandy Noto
When you assume your tax refund can pay for that Scandinavian cruise you want to go on, but it turns out the only trip it’s covering is one to Ikea, it’s disappointing. That new couch is nice, but it’s not exactly a vacation to Oslo. A meal at Bellemore is similar in that it’s going to be fine - just probably not as impressive as you hoped it would be.
The dishes at this high-end spot in the West Loop (from the group behind Girl & the Goat and Somerset) are hit and miss, often on the same plate. Take the $65 oyster pie - Bellemore’s signature appetizer - for example. It comes in two small wedges, and is served with champagne. With all the fanfare it gets, you expect this to be really special, and while it looks pretty and the custard filling is rich and creamy, a bland crust brings it down. Other unsuccessful dishes on the menu follow suit: they all have at least one element that doesn’t work very well.
The spaghetti chitarra has a heavy and otherwise unremarkable cream sauce, and is covered in crispy garlic pieces that overwhelm the shrimp, squid, and scallops. The black bass has a lobster jus that looks unappetizing (despite having good flavor), caramelized mussels that just taste tough, and uni on top that seems unnecessary. The fish itself is good - it’s the other stuff that gets in the way. Basically, these dishes just have a little too much going on.
Certain plates do work well, though. For example, the Hawaiian rolls are a great starter. They’re soft, sweet, and come with a ham butter that we really like. The venison tartare is tasty, too - the meat is well balanced with pickled pears, and a pumpernickel crisp adds nice texture. The foie gras is another standout: it’s chilled, shaved into thin, curly pieces, and served in a bowl over chocolate brioche crumbles and persimmon marmalade. The foie melts in your mouth, and is perfectly balanced out by the sweet marmalade and chocolate brioche. The problem is that not everything on the menu is up to the same high standards.
Space-wise, this restaurant has everything you expect from a big, buzzy restaurant in Chicago. It has tall ceilings, huge booths, and carefully curated decor - in this case consisting mainly of stuffed birds and furniture that looks like it was taken from a nice house in Evanston. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t feel comfortable. And then there’s the music. You’ll likely notice about two thirds of the way through your meal that it’s a little bit all over the place - don’t be surprised if you hear some Tom Petty or TLC. “Refugee” and “Waterfalls” just seem off in such fancy surroundings.
Bellemore is upscale and expensive. It’s the kind of place where you expect anything and everything you order to be great. And while some dishes really are good, others just don’t quite make sense. At this price point, that inconsistency is a letdown. In other words, if you end up spending your refund here, you may be disappointed.
A signature dish that gets its own special section on the menu. For $65, you get two small wedges of an oyster custard pie, each topped with a generous serving of caviar and a fresh oyster. You also get two glasses of Moet & Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage Champagne. The custard is tasty, but we found the crust to be bland and slightly soggy. We frankly can’t figure out if this was worth it price-wise, but either way, we wouldn’t order it again.
These are warm, sweet, and delicious. They come with a ham butter and stewed pumpkin seeds that make them even better.
Very tasty and well-balanced. The venison has a great texture, and is layered with pickled pear, mushroom, and a pumpernickel crisp.
Breaking news: fried stuff is fantastic. This dish supports that theory - the fried razor clams and “crispy sweet potatoes” (a.k.a. sweet potato tater tots) are really good.
Shaved Foie Gras
This is a cool preparation of foie. It’s shaved into ribbons, and served on top of pieces of chocolate brioche and a persimmon marmalade. If you come here, this is definitely something you should order.
The wheels come off on this pasta dish. The noodles are heavily sauced, and the sauce itself doesn’t have much flavor (unlike the overpowering crispy garlic pieces on top). It tastes like something you might make at home - and not be too excited about.
There are two versions of duck on this plate: duck breast, glazed in honey and served medium rare with crispy skin, and a duck heart crepinette (essentially a sausage). The duck breast is definitely the star of the dish, and we liked that the best. The farro it comes with is also excellent.
While the fish is moist and flavorful, working well with the sauce, the uni and caramelized mussels taste unnecessary and ultimately bring this dish down.