Last night in Chicago and my sister in law was nice enough to make 9pm reservations at Publican. The place serves rustic food that is shared by the table. Based on reviews, I was excited to try it. There were various murals of pigs and hogs on the wall (very cool and I knew I’d love the food right away) and there are tables of four set up in what the restaurant calls “pig pens” – literally it’s like a pen that holds pigs only instead there is a table and seating. It’s like an enclosed booth with walls. Wish I had taken a photo. Here is a shot of the very cool lighting inside.
So let’s get right to the food. We ordered a bunch of dishes and shared. We tried to keep it diverse with some poultry, meat, fish and veggies – little of everything.
Cookie Monster doesn’t do raw oysters so the three of us partook with the Chef’s Choice of 6:
We got two orders of the fluke crudo because our waiter warned us the portion was on the smaller side:
There were pomegranate seeds adding acid bursts and pistachios bringing nutty crunch to the fluke. There was microcilantro also which I picked out. Fish was wonderfully fresh. Very nice starter.
The rest of the dishes started coming out as they were ready.
The shredded brussel sprouts with a round of burata cheese and shaved parmesan:
This was a favorite of the entire table. The brussel sprouts were crunchy and I liked how they shredded it up. The parmesan was salty and wonderfully contrasted against that soft creamy burata cheese. It was a very good side dish that I wish I could have again. Will try and recreate at home one of these days.
The whole fish trout:
DELICIOUS! The trout was deboned, breaded and fried so the skin was uber crispy and kept the fish really moist. There was a jicama and apple slaw on top that added the right amount of freshness and creaminess from the mayonnaise. Everything was beautifully seasoned. Must have.
The half order of mussels in a wine broth with some freshly made crusty bread (still warm):
Nothing new to report really – steamed mussels are steamed mussels aside from the broth – although I did get a couple of raw mussels which added a shocking bite of fishiness to my mouth. Wasn’t too pleased with that.
The pottee is pork tenderloin, turkey breast, toulouse sausage with some root vegetables. I found the pork tenderloin dry. I didn’t even realize there was turkey breast until I revisited the menu for this blog post. That was given to my brother and his wife thinking it was more white meat pork. The sausage was nice and when eaten together with the pork, added much needed moisture and flavor to a bite. I liked the little cornichons which added some brightness and acid. The strange blob of melted mozzarella was a bit weird though – what was it doing there? Overall not my favorite plate.
The Heritage Turkey Balantine:
This plate was dark meat turkey skin on rolled around foie gras and served with black lentils. Basically it was a turkey log that is then sliced and served. This serving brought you two rounds. The foie gras was what sold me but when I got my portion, you definitely could not taste it. The skin that was also supposed to be crispy but ended up being chewy and I stripped mine off. I found the texture of the turkey a bit rubbery as well.
Last but not least we got the swiss chard:
This was another attempt at getting our healthy veggies but where the veggies were a side component of the dish (similar to the brussel sprouts side we got where cheese seemed to be the main ingredient). There was alot of cream and cheese and buttered breadcrumbs and a trace of swiss chard with cauliflower thrown in. Don’t get me wrong – this was divine! but not what you want to order if you are looking to be light and healthy.
The food at Publican was good. It’s really comforting and has a pleasant hum to it. I love the warm lighting and airy feel of the restaurant as well – perfect for your cold Chicago evenings. If I could do it over again, I would definitely go back for more oysters, their amazing trout (and I’m guessing they are pretty good with any whole fish) and the sides. It was a really delicious meal and I very much appreciate my sister in law for taking the time to thoughtfully select it for us.
Publican, 837 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL