Chicago has a lot of great tasting-menu spots to choose from. Say, for example, Oriole, or Schwa, or Smyth. Each of these is excellent and rated above a 9.0. So why would you pick Brass Heart, a very small tasting-menu spot in Uptown, over one of those? You really shouldn’t - unless you want some fancy vegan food that also tastes really good.
Brass Heart has two different 10-course tasting menus—a boring omnivore option that we don’t want you to worry about right now (we’ll get to it in a second) and a $165 vegan meal that’s great. The menu changes, but it’s always made up of pretty, creative vegan dishes that you’ll want to eat regardless if you eat meat or cheese most days of the week. In other words, it’s all objectively delicious, and everything you want to see during a special occasion meal.
There might be a horchata sabayon with parsnips and salsify or fluffy coconut bread filled with fried plantains and hearts of palm. And the smaller courses flow into larger dishes, like a rich vegetable pot-de-feu followed by (if you’re lucky) a pillowy five-spice sweet potato gnocchi. Everything looks pretty enough to feel special, the course progression makes sense, and you’ll leave feeling full but not stuffed.
But like the duller half of an otherwise enjoyable couple, the omnivore menu is pretty basic. There’s nothing grievously wrong with the food, it’s just not memorable. From a lobster chowder you could find at a nice steakhouse, to bland duck breast on a smear of tzatziki, nothing stands out - and at this price, it should. A few dishes are better - the spicy wagyu with broccoli is cooked perfectly, and so is the spaghetti tossed with anchovy butter and parmesan. But unless you also happen to write restaurant reviews for a living, none of these things are worth mentioning ever again.
Other than the vegan food, the most notable thing about dinner here is that—between the size and color of the space—it feels like being stuck in an elevator for three hours. That’s how long a meal takes, without throwing drinks into the mix—which you definitely should. There’s a well-curated wine list with options at all price points, and several pairings to choose from. There’s even a $60 non-alcoholic option, plus fun vegan cocktails like The Dude Evolves, a twist on a White Russian made with oat milk. Of course, adding any of those things will make a meal here more expensive - but those are the kind of important decisions that make you glad you chose to come here after all.
The menu changes often, but here’s an example of what you might find:
photo credit: Tom Gavin
Scallop With Grapefruit Sabayon
Coconut Bread With Hearts Of Palm And Fried Plantain
photo credit: Tom Gavin