Neighborhood: West Loop
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★★
- Drinks: Glogg, Scotch cocktail
- Pescatarian Tasting Menu:
- Caviar Toast with a Smoked Tea
- Mushroom Tart
- Lentil Crepe
- Salsify and Endives
- Smoked Monkfish
- Confit Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
- Celery Root Risotto
- Earl Grey Ice Cream and Whipped Whey
Elske is New American restaurant tucked away in the West Loop offering beautiful Danish inspired cuisine. I was very excited to try Elske having been to Copenhagen this past year. The decor definitely brought me back to Copenhagen as it’s minimal and all about the mid-century modern vibe. They also have a lovely outdoor area with a fireplace for when it will eventually be warmer outside. We were here for a celebration so it was a bourgie kind of night. We were seated right away upon arrival as I made reservations well in advance.
The hostesses were nice and everyone was on top of cleaning up the plates and table throughout the course of the meal. The main reason for this review being 4 stars rather than 5 stars was because of the chaotic service from our server. Our server was a bit frazzled and stressed out. She also conflated pescatarian with vegetarian and I was a bit nervous since it was a major dinner that was a surprise. I had to be very clear that we eat fish since that is pretty much all over the menu here and is a staple of Danish cuisine.
We started off with some delicious cocktails. They were fabulous cocktails, a bit pricey at about $13 each, which is pretty typical for nice restaurants in the West Loop. I had the Glogg, which was soothing and complex with almond, red wine, brandy, and spices. It also came with a cute little ginger cookie. My dining companion had the Scotch cocktail which had a cranberry grenadine and lemon. It was quite intense to drink, but also refreshing. Their cocktail menu is pretty small but they offer high quality drinks.
Since we were at Elske for a celebration, we decided to do the tasting menu at $85 per person. It includes 8 courses, so while it is expensive, it was worth it for how unique and beautiful everything was. You do have the option of the wine pairing for an additional $45, but that was a bit too much for me. They were able to make a couple of changes to their tasting menu to make it pescatarian friendly, which was highly appreciated (otherwise we wouldn’t have gone there). Most of the tasting menu is pescatarian friendly (not vegetarian though as it’s fish heavy) and they just switched out the two duck dishes.
I really enjoyed how they had the chefs bring out their dishes and present it to the table. It made the experience more intimate. We decided to add the dark rye sourdough with the cultured koi butter for $7. It was absolutely scrumptious but I thought it should’ve been a part of the tasting menu already. The tasting menu felt very customized and it was endearing to be able to meet the chefs who created such a unique dishes. The opener was a a light caviar toast served with a tea of smoked fruits and vegetables. I really loved the smokiness of the tea, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. The toast had a little caviar, dill, and radish creating a nice, salty crunchiness. I have never had anything like it before and I enjoyed its novelty. The next dish was a little mushroom tart with a caramelized top layer and a buckwheat crust. The texture was incredibly smooth with umami flavors. It was a perfect two-bite tasting portion.
One of my favorite parts of the tasting menu was the sprouted lentil crepe with a smoked whitefish salad and tarragon. The crepe was so flavorful and the smoked whitefish really complemented symphony of flavors well. I love crepes and would like to see more on restaurant menus. It was also a perfect little portion. For our fourth course we had the salsify and endives with a mild cream, burnt bread, and black truffle. Mild flavors, but an incredibly unique dish. The endives had a refreshing crunchiness on the firmer rye bread. While I saw the black truffle, I didn’t really taste the truffle, which was slightly disappointing because who doesn’t love truffle flavor?
As the courses progressed throughout the night, they got slightly heavier in a very gradual manner. For our fifth course, we had the roasted monkfish with an onion soubise, parsnip, and preserved lemon. The fish was perfectly made and I loved the onion soubise. The lemon drizzle had a mustard-like flavor, which added some zest to this dish. It was mild and all of the flavors blended seamlessly together.
The sixth course was supposed to be an aged duck breast and we substituted it for the confit hen of the woods mushrooms and their celery root risotto. These were definitely the stars of the night. The hen of the woods mushrooms came with a chestnut, pear cream, and thyme. Hen of the woods mushrooms are such remarkable mushrooms. They were crunchy, savory, and provided plenty of umami flavor in contrast to the more subtle pear cream sauce. I did enjoy the light chestnut flavors. But my absolute favorite dish was the celery root risotto with black truffle, candied hazelnuts, and sherry. The first few bites just melted in my mouth and I had to stop talking to really savor these complex, gorgeous flavors. The risotto had the perfect moist texture and sherry added a really dynamic flavor. The truffle tones were more pronounced adding to the pure exquisiteness of the dish. The candied walnuts also added a nice crunchy texture to the risotto. I would come back here just for this risotto.
We were getting full at this point so it was nice that the seventh course was a palate cleanser for dessert. It was a bite of their frozen fennel jelly with mint. I appreciated that it prepared my tastebuds for dessert. Since it was a birthday, they gave us a cake dessert in addition to their Earl grey dessert. The cake was quite remarkable and not super sweet and sugary. It had vanilla and nuts drizzled all over it. The last course was the Earl grey dessert, which came with whipped whey, parsnip, lemon, and buckwheat. Who thought of this splendid concoction? The whipped whey was incredibly remarkable. It was similar to merengue and was a complement to the Earl grey ice cream. The earl grey ice cream was the star of the dish. It tasted herbaceous and delicate. The buckwheat at the bottom added a lovely crunchy texture to the soft dessert.
All in all, this was an incredibly delightful and distinct dining experience. I am so happy to have had the privilege of trying their tasting menu and I am appreciative of the fact that they made it pescatarian for us. If you are looking for a special and creative dining experience to celebrate a special occasion, Elske is perfect for this. It is quite expensive though so it’ll probably be awhile before I come back here, but I look forward to the next time. There was a certain level of pretentiousness that I felt from the staff, but it wasn’t over the top and I have come to expect it in the West Loop.