The signature restaurant of the Conrad Chicago, The Restaurant at Conrad is everything a luxury hotel restaurant should be, and more. In addition to crafting an inspired and innovative menu for his guests, Executive Chef Baasim Zafar has made it a point to only use organic, seasonal ingredients, thus minimizing his kitchen's carbon footprint.
If you were as surprised as me to learn that the rich and privileged actually care about something other than their tax bracket (just kidding!), then maybe you should make a reservation and see, or rather, taste, what all the fuss is about. Of course, Zafar's haute American menu changes with the seasons, but at any time you'll find an array of savory appetizers such as the aubergine croquette made with crisp aubergine, mixed green salad and cilantro creme fraiche ($12) or the duck confit lettuce wrap with sauteed duck leg, hoisin and oyster sauces, crunchy water chestnuts and butter lettuce ($13).
For your entree, choose any cut of corn-fed, locally-produced premium gold Angus in the $30 range. If a recent wine and cheese fundraiser to fight the effects of bovine belching has turned you off from beef, the lobster chorizo risotto is perfectly creamy, and the spiciness of the chorizo balances nicely with the refreshing zest of cilantro and dill ($24). I said the carbon footprint had been minimized, not the price.
In all seriousness, the effort to incorporate green practices into the restaurant industry (even if it is just a thinly veiled attempt to keep up with the latest marketing trends) is an admirable mission. Diners at The Restaurant at Conrad will feel a certain satisfaction for what they have given to the green movement, even if it's taken a little green out of their wallets.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Amanda Nyren