For my one fancy meal while I was in Chicago, I made a reservation at Schwa. I was a bit nervous about the reservation because I read on a lot of negative reviews about their schedule; a lot of times they just don’t bother opening because of electrical issues (or so they say). It’s a bit risky because sometimes they don’t even bother calling people who have made reservations. Angie and I risked it because we figured it would be a fun experience (and if they cancelled on us, we could always go to Portillo’s!) It was pouring the day we went and we wanted to get some wines for dinner since it’s BYOB, but it took forever to get a cab so we decided to just go there and drink water instead. By the time we arrived, it had stopped raining (and we couldn’t find a liquor store nearby!):
The restaurant is a single room that’s in an apartment building; actually, looks like it’s a one-bedroom apartment that they changed around because the kitchen and bathroom are both in the back (and because it’s tiny!) I told them about my allergies so they said they’d figure something out (rice, potatoes and corn). We started out with a fizzing centerpiece:
After the centerpiece was placed at our table, a server brought by two small martini glasses for their take on a Manhattan – a chocolate covered cherry with boubon:
The chocolate was very rich and somewhat melted (from the taste, it didn’t seem like there was actually a cherry, just the taste of a cherry). The bourbon was very smooth and the drink was actually really good.
The waiter came back to collect our martini glasses and let us drink our centerpieces, which was a basil-citrus seltzer:
Our first course was cassoulet with white beans:
Very savory and heavy for a first course, but it was also really flavorful and well made. The server said he was going to “make a special tasting” for us because of my allergies, but the tables around us started with the same course.
Next, a quail egg enclosed in pasta:
There was a truffle explosion when we ate it (we were instructed to eat it in one bite). It tasted just like the truffle explosion from Alinea (although a little less refined).
Next, another truffle pasta:
This pasta was made with celery and more truffle, although this version had the truffle bits shaved on it, not included in the pasta’s filling.
Next, a passion fruit gelee with salmon roe and foam:
An interesting array of dishes because the passion fruit was very sweet next to the two pasta courses. The service was really spotty because all of the servers were also the chefs (well, most of them). After waiting for a while, we were served another fish course – salmon:
The salmon was barely cooked (maybe it was poached) and served with sweet jelly (even though I’m not a fan of sweet and savory most of the time, this version of salmon was prepared really well).
Next, butterscotch with vanilla ice cream:
Up to this point, we were getting the same meal as everyone else (what happened to the special tasting!) We were also interrupted mid-meal by a chef because the kitchen ran out of mushrooms (or they were doing shrooms in the back). We played trivia for a moment, which was incredibly weird, and then went back to the meal. The interruption was really bizarre but a lot of people thought it was funny (I, on the other hand, was so hungry that I might have been delirious at that point).
I thought we were moving onto the dessert course because we had gotten the fish course and we were also moving onto ice cream, however, we received one more fish course:
It was a small piece of bass that had a nice crust (I don’t remember what the crust was, but we both liked it). After the sea bass, we were presented with kimchi beer and a slice of cabbage:
A few servers came by to ask how we were enjoying the meal – we were both enjoying it, but we were wondering if there was any more savory dishes (as in, meat). Apparently not because we were presented with the final dish, a dessert made with the flavors of Dr. Pepper and Maker’s Mark:
Pouring the Dr. Pepper:
The final presentation:
We realized it was the final course because we noticed the people next to us enjoying it as they were paying their check. We missed out on one of the courses (the cheese pop course), which we were kind of bummed about but we didn’t realize until after we left the restaurant.
The idea of the restaurant is interesting and fun – friends that are chefs and cook whatever they want, take shots during service, and play loud music – the implementation of the idea, however, needs to be worked on because we left the restaurant a little unhappy and hungry; we ended up picking up Angie’s boyfriend, Nat, and then going to Portillo’s to pick up more food. Would I visit Schwa again? Definitely not – it was way too expensive and when I left, I felt like my ears were still ringing from the loud music.