Restaurants are like people. Some of them like to do exactly what everyone else is doing, and some of them like to do their own thing. S.K.Y. falls into the second category. It’s not particularly easy to sum up, but it doesn’t need to be. The main thing you need to know is that you definitely want to be eating the food here.
This Pilsen spot doesn’t have a theme that smacks you in the face as soon as you walk in. You won’t feel like you’ve seen the same concept five times before - and the dishes aren’t easily categorized. While the menu has diverse global inspirations (and incorporates a lot of Asian elements in particular), it’s not a consistent mashup of any two or three specific types of food. It draws on lots of different traditions - from French to Korean - and the integration of flavors and techniques feels totally seamless.
The food here looks and tastes delicious. There’s cornbread in madeleine form, and lobster dumplings served in a light and rich lemongrass broth. There’s a roasted root salad, with parsnips and carrots in a raisin vinaigrette, that tastes like it’s sponsored by the Midwest. There’s fried chicken with a fermented hot sauce, and salmon with a phyllo crust and an Indonesian sambal sauce. Everything works, and nothing feels unnecessary. The only dish we can’t completely get behind is the foie gras bibimbap, which has so much foie that it tastes overly rich. (On the other hand, it’s certainly a generous portion for the price.)
Cement walls with dramatic uplighting give the space an industrial feel, and the music is chill indie rock. The ambience is relaxed, making it good for either a weeknight date or a Saturday dinner with friends. You’ll feel a lot like you’re eating in someone’s cool basement, or hanging out at a low-key house party (maybe even one that’s too low-key - the hosts occasionally seem slightly bewildered, although the service otherwise is very good). If you’re not in the neighborhood, it’s an experience worth traveling for.
This place doesn’t seem too concerned with what its restaurant peers are doing, and that works in its favor. It’s serving thoughtful dishes that are pretty but not precious, drawn from a variety of different inspirations that come together in a way that feels natural. Like most talented people who focus on the things they care about and ignore the crowd, S.K.Y. isn’t trying to impress you. But it will anyway.
Essentially cornbread muffins (with whole kernels) shaped like madeleines. They’re served with a butter and olive oil spread. These are amazing.
Black Truffle Croquettes
These croquettes are filled with cheddar cheese and truffle. The truffle flavor isn’t overpowering, and the cheese is nice and melty. It’s a rich and tasty starter.
Fresh hamachi dressed in a ponzu sauce, with puffed rice that adds texture. Order this if you want a lighter small plate.
We love this appetizer. The dumplings are thin and perfect, full of lobster that’s tender, and in a buttery lemongrass sauce that’s both light and rich at the same time. Make sure you get this.
Carrots and parsnips are the roots that make up this salad, and they come with candied pecans, blue cheese, and grapes. The vegetables are roasted, then tossed with a raisin vinaigrette that balances everything out. It’s sweet, savory, and delicious.
Sometimes when boneless chicken is fried, it can be dry. Not here. This chicken is crispy on the outside but still juicy. It’s served with a house-made hot sauce that will make your eyes water, and a side of creamed corn that keeps the heat in check. This is excellent if you like spice.
Prime Beef Short Rib
This tastes like S.K.Y.’s Sunday supper dish, and comes with an herbed spaetzle and red wine sauce. The meat is fall-apart tender, and makes a perfect bite with the spaetzle.
Crispy Seared Salmon
This salmon has sheets of flaky phyllo dough seared on one side, and is served with broccolini, plus a sambal-butter sauce. The fish is moist, there’s heat from the sambal, and the broccolini has a little bitterness that rounds it all out.
Foie Gras Bibimbap
There is no egg in this bibimbap. There’s foie gras and mushrooms instead. The lobe of foie is pretty big, and its flavor dominates the whole dish. Only order this if you really like foie gras.