review: band of bohemia
Band of Bohemia
By Amanda Wilson
Photos by Fiona Gasaway
Dishes to Try: Smoked Sturgeon, Duck Confit Pappardelle, Parsnip
On the far north side, Ravenswood is home to the first ever Michelin-starred brewpub, Band of Bohemia. The restaurant sits on a service-like road nearly underneath the Union Pacific North Metra line, and despite being one of the only addresses on the street, it’s fairly easy to miss. The entrance is located in the back, and even after stepping inside, I thought I was in an old-timey bed and breakfast rather than a restaurant. Keep walking, however, and it’s clear that Michael Carroll and Craig Sindelar, the co-founders, promise a uniquely Chicago experience.
The tables are lined along what could have served as a ballroom sixty years ago, with an open kitchen and long bar on one side, windows on the other, and circular booths chiseled from the back wall. The servers are friendly, and six pages of the book-like menu are dedicated to drinks, not too surprising from a place that calls itself a “Culinary Brewpub.”
We began our meal with the Smoked Sturgeon, with the fish treated like bacon and cured, imparting a deep meaty flavor to a fish that’s usually only good for its eggs (black caviar comes from sturgeon roe). Sliced in strips and laid on a thick piece of sourdough spread with a rich egg yolk custard, the fish is given a dot of black raspberry jelly, adding just a bit of acidity to cut through the savory flavors.
Also of note is the Duck Confit Pappardelle – thick ribbons of fresh egg pasta in a luxurious velouté (literally: velvet) sauce topped with duck cracklins – and the Barramundi, a light Mediterranean-inspired dish, grilled to perfection atop a vibrant orange piquillo pepper puree with olives, fennel, and potatoes.
One of the Band’s true highlights is the post-dinner experience. I dare anyone to find a dessert in Chicago even remotely alike any of the four desserts on the menu. In ‘Parsnip’, an airy parsnip cake and a vinegary apple sorbet sit atop a meringue bridge, which, once broken, falls into a parsnip foam. A delicate orange blossom custard is topped with a layer of pistachio dust and a tangy pomegranate sorbet for the Orange Flower Pot de Crème.
Any self-respecting restaurant would serve coffee such ornate desserts as these, but none has mirrored the intricacy of the desserts with ornate coffee as well. Upon arrival at the table, the Smoked Espresso is covered with an upside-down glass holding pecan smoke. The glass is removed, and smoke flows out onto the table to reveal a shallow ceramic espresso cup holding an ounce of raspberry vinegar-infused espresso. The Orange Doily latte is a beautiful cappuccino-like combination of cinnamon, cardamom, and of course, orange, each flavor subtle and sophisticated.
Despite the name, Band of Bohemia does not present traditional Eastern European cuisine. Instead, they have elevated relatively unassuming flavors to dynamic and surprising dishes, served in a colorful and contemporary environment. Do not come to Band of Bohemia for an orthodox experience; come for a quirky and whimsical one.