Who Knew Duck Corn Dogs Could Be So Good?: Dinner at Viand
Last weekend, Win and I had dinner at Viand Bar & Kitchen, a terrific place in downtown Chicago. Win has walked past Viand a number of times and been curious about it, but for one reason or another we hadn't tried it yet. I loved our dinner there and I am thrilled that we finally stopped in and tried it.
Viand's interior has a clean, sleek, Art Deco feel. The photo above is of the front of their kitchen and it just gives a hint of Viand's style. The setting is comfortable, relaxed and warm while also quite stylish.
Upon arriving at Viand, we were greeted by some of the most friendly and competent staff I've met lately. The hostess was very sweet and our waiter, Dennis, was superb. Dennis was that excellent combination of friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient without ever making us feel rushed. He knew the menu inside and out and was able to make terrific recommendations on some dishes and share candid thoughts about why he didn't personally care for one or two others. I'm delighted that I listened to one of his suggestions because it was absolutely delicious.
As Dennis mentioned when we were seated, Viand is a Latin word meaning "a morsel of food" or "a delicious dish." In keeping with this "morsel" theme, Viand serves small plates of food with their cocktails. Viand has an interesting menu of sweet martinis and savory martinis. Each martini is accompanied by a small dish of something that will complement it. I ordered the Bubbly Martini with kirsch strawberries. Win had the Raspberry Lemonade Martini with fresh raspberries and blackberries in a liquor on the side.
Viand's dinner menu is organized around small plates (appetizers), nibbles (salads), vital victuals (soups and side dishes), and large plates (entrees). Guests can select any combination from the various menu categories and Viand will accommodate that. So one doesn't have to follow the traditional appetizer, entree, dessert path. Instead, you could put together a selection of small plates or a small plate and a large plate, etc. It's somewhat similar to tapas in the freedom of choice it affords. Win and I were interested in so many things on the menu that we told Dennis we'd be ordering in stages, a little bit at a time, and then we'd see what struck our fancy for the next course as we went.
We started off with She Crab Soup and Tenderloin Skewers with Onion Marmalade, Chili and Truffle Oil. The She Crab Soup was outstanding; full-flavored and creamy. The Tenderloin Skewers were really unique; cooked perfectly and accented extremely well by the onion marmalade, chili and truffle oil.
Next we decided to try the Crab Cakes in Dijon Cream Sauce and the Coffee Seared Skirt Steak with a Chocolate Chili Sauce, Fennel and Endive. Dennis had recommended the skirt steak as one of his absolute favorites, citing the unique combination of coffee, chocolate and chili that make it exceptional. He was definitely right. While I have seen steak with coffee or espresso sauces before, I haven't yet seen a coffee/chocolate/chili combination. The taste was amazing and I'm so happy I took his recommendation. I will say that the coffee/chili taste was a bit overpowering on the fennel and endive for me, but it wowed me on the steak. The Crab Cakes were delicious as well.
Now here's where we diverge from normal people. Even though Viand considers those plates to be small plates, you can see from the photos that the portions are actually quite sizable. Normal people would probably have stopped at those two courses and headed out. We're definitely not normal when it comes to trying new dishes though, so we went on for a third round. This time we ordered the Duck Corn Dogs served with Plum Ketchup, Caraway Mustard, and Orange Marmalade and the Lamb Lollipops with Mint Sauce over a Vegetable Mash. The lamb was wonderful and the sauce and vegetable mash worked really well with it. The Duck Corn Dogs were amazing. As you can see from the photo above, these look just like the corn dogs you might have at a fair or an amusement park. Inside a delicious corn dog breading, however, is moist, tasty duck...almost like a duck sausage. These were so, so good and each of the sauces was delicious with the corn dogs in different ways.
Everything on Viand's dessert menu sounded very good, but we decided that before having any dessert we should definitely get outside and walk off some of the dinner. We took a walk down Michigan Avenue to The Cheesecake Factory in the lower level of The John Hancock Center. Here's what we ordered for dessert:
I mentioned we weren't normal, right? In the back is a huge brownie sundae and in the front is a piece of Snickers Bar Cheesecake. Now even we have our limits, so much of this went uneaten, but it was still fun and decadent to try.
I loved, loved, loved Viand. Excellent service, interesting menu, pleasant atmosphere, and most importantly delicious food. It's not the kind of food you'd want all the time (duck corn dogs and lamb lollipops need to be served sparingly), but when you are in the mood for something unique it's absolutely worth a try.
155 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Web Site: http://www.viandchicago.com