Krissie reviews Ethiopian Diaspora Chef Marcus Samuellson's C-House Fish and Chops in Chicago!
If I could pick just three words to describe the delicious food at C-House Fish & Chops, of course, besides "delicious", then "creative," "fun" and "fresh," would be the first that come to mind. I recently had the pleasure of dining at this fairly new, downtown Chicago restaurant, and I would go so far as to say that besides going to the dentist regularly, eating here was quite simply the best thing I've ever done for my palette.
On a narrow street nestled in between a mix of modern and historic buildings in the Streeterville District and just a couple blocks from Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue, sits the C-House. The sleek and polished interior, designed by Arthur Casas, is indeed beautiful, though not differing from what you would expect at any modern, upscale restaurant. Instead, as I would soon discover, it is the sophisticated tastes of Chef and Owner Marcus Sammuelson that set this restaurant apart.
As it was a nice summer day, I opted to sit outside on the street-level patio. With just the right amount of sun and the cool, cityscape view, the patio provided a seductive, urban setting.
The lunch menu, which changes often, is divided into several categories including the C-Bar, which is a mix of small, seafood -based plates, appetizers, sandwiches, flatbreads, entrees, and sides. Each dish was a playful, but balanced symbiosis of both cooked and fresh elements with many ingredients picked straight from the chef’s local garden. First, I ordered from the C-bar a dish called the C-Bar Taste of 3. It was a delicious introduction to the C-House’s edgy cuisine. On a rectangular plate that was divided into three sections was a crunchy yellowtail taco, followed by spicy cobia ceviche, and last was pickled herring. The ceviche, a mixture of fresh chunks of cobia and citrus juices, was served with golden tortilla chips for dipping, and of these first three items, it was the most incredible. My next favorite was the yellowtail taco served on a bed of seasoned freeze-dried corn. “Freeze-dried” definitely isn’t the most appetizing word, but, with its African spices and melt-in-your mouth texture, it went surprisingly well with the taco. Last, the pickled herring was good, but not crazy good. I imagine on another day, it would have hit the spot, but on this particular day, it just wasn’t what I was craving. The tuna trio came out next: one poached, one grilled, and one crudo style (think sashimi with citrus). What a fun, yet simple way to experience three different styles of tuna. We all know nothing is better than a fresh, crunchy salad, so be sure to try the heirloom apple salad while at C-House. This is what I mean by fun, fresh food. A string of mustard-seed garnish sits beside a tuft of mustard greens topped with thin slices of sweet apples and gouda cheese. Underneath this green heap of goodness is a chunk of sourdough bread. Normally, sourdough isn’t my favorite kind of bread, but with this dish, it created the perfect combination of sweet and sour, which is a key element in a good salad.Now octopus is another thing I would not normally order, but since the server recommended it, I decided to give it a try. Grilled and served on a bed of greens, the octopus was delicious. It didn’t have the rubbery texture that I was expecting, and that just-off- the- grill taste went perfectly with the watercress and kohlrabi, a type of cabbage.The flatbread is perfect for those who find usual sandwich bread too thick or those who don’t want to take in too many carbs. Or for those of us who just want something that tastes damn good. It’s slightly thicker than a cracker, with a slightly softer texture, and—since it’s drizzled with olive oil—a hell of a lot more taste. The menu offered three different kinds: smoked trout, bacon and roasted apple with onion, and the tomato and buffalo milk ricotta. They each sounded equally delicious, and after the first three dishes you might think I would have been sick of seafood, but nope. I went with the smoked trout. Best decision ever. Topped with golden beets, red beets, and tender chunks of smoked trout with dollops of cream cheese in between a bed of arugula, the smoked trout flat bread was definitely my favorite thing on the lunch menu. If you don’t do anything else with your life, try this sandwich. It’ll make it all worthwhile.All in all, C-House gets an A. Each ingredient is perfect right down to the smallest mustard seed. If you’re in the Chicago area and you want fun, fresh, creative, and of course, delicious food, that’s just around the corner from Chicago’s other main downtown attractions, C-House is a must. The cheapest items on the lunch menu are sides at $6 while the most expensive is an entrée steak at $26. Sandwiches, appetizers, and flatbreads hover around $8-$15. Happy Eating in the Windy City. Fore more info, visit www.C-HouseRestaurant.com. For more info, on Chef Marcus Samuellson, visit www.marcussamuelsson.com/