Birthday Dinner at Karyn’s On Green

Karyn's On GreenAfter our very substantial meal at The Chicago Diner, we checked into the hotel and walked to the nearby Magnificent Mile.  We did some window shopping and people watching, and then it was time to get gussied up for dinner at Karyn’s On Green.

I visited Karyn’s On Green last fall, and the visit had its flaws.  (You can read the post about that visit here.)  However, before that David and I both had positive experiences with the city’s upscale/special occasion restaurant, and so it seemed a safe bet to give them another chance.

wine at Karyn's On GreenWe were seated near the back at a small table for two.  Karyn’s has a varied cocktail list, extensive wine list, and fresh juices.  We both opted for a glass of Tempranillo and ordered the nut-based, Aged Raw Cheese Plate to start.

cheese plate karyn's on greenUnlike the softer raw cheeses served at Karyn’s Fresh Corner, these firm cheeses, which had been aged for at least three months, were sliceable for laying onto a dehydrated cracker or thinly sliced apple.  They were highlighted with a drizzle of agave syrup.  Also on the plate was a pile of radish micro greens, which complemented the saltiness of the cheese and sweetness of the apple.  Each cheese was slightly different in flavor, and we rotated between them, picking out a favorite until they had all disappeared.

vegan chicken legs at karyn's on greenFor the main course, I ordered the “Chicken” Legs.  I can safely say that it’s something I’d never seen on a vegan menu before, and I was curious to try it.  They’re made with texturized tofu on wooden skewers, lightly breaded, and fried.  It was the weirdest sensation holding each “chicken” leg and eating it by hand, revealing the flaky tofu layers underneath the crisp breading.  The strangeness of the experience almost overshadowed being able to taste it.  They were served on a bed of creamy hazelnut sweet potato mash, charred rapini, and smears of smoky sweet barbecue sauce offering a feel of Southern fine dining.

portobello mushrooms at karyn's on greenDavid ordered the Roasted Portobello, which came with three large grilled Portobello caps.  Underneath the mushrooms laid a root vegetable hash and sautéed greens, and they were topped with crispy leeks providing a pleasant combination of textures.  It was all served in a Tempranillo reduction, which gave the dish umami and depth.

The portions on the main courses were quite large, especially considering the hefty lunch we’d eaten at The Chicago Diner.  We both had about half of our meals taken to go.  We could have easily shared either one of the entrees and had plenty.

Chicago sitesThe weekend we were there, Chicago was experiencing its coldest July weekend in 30 years.  It was a wonderful reprieve after the muggy temperatures from earlier in the month.  So we decided to take advantage of the comfortable temperatures to walk to Millennium Park, about a mile and a half away.   On the way we enjoyed the views of the city skyline, architecture, and artwork.

Cloud GateOnce we reached Millennium Park, we took many pictures of Cloud Gate (because you know I can’t refuse a photo opportunity with a bean).  Rarely does one come across a piece of art that people are so eager to interact with, and the simplicity of the design becomes complex as you move around it, getting new reflections, even standing underneath it and looking into its center.

After a few more pictures, we continued on to the hotel bar to toast the end of my birthday and a wonderful night in Chicago.  In the next post, I’ll cover our final hours in Chicago, before we headed homeward.

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Karyn’s On Green in Chicago

When I was in Chicago earlier this month, I took the opportunity to have a light lunch at Karyn’s On Green.  I’d visited Karyn’s raw restaurant just a couple of weeks earlier and was eager to re-visit Karyn’s gourmet location.  I’d been to Karyn’s On Green one other time a couple of years ago and had been very impressed by the calibre of the cuisine.  While there are many amazing vegan restaurants all over the globe, vegan fine dining is more elusive.  It’s a rare treat to visit the sort of place that is anniversary-worthy or birthday-worthy, that takes reservations, and where you feel like dressing up would be appropriate.  Karyn’s On Green is open and spacious with an airy quality because of the tall ceilings and large front window.

That morning I’d had an indulgent breakfast at Chicago Diner, and so I was looking for something healthier and on the lighter side.  After thinking about the fabulous raw entrée I had at Karyn’s Raw, I opted for a glass of coconut water and the chopped vegetable salad made with romaine hearts, seasonal vegetables, and tossed in an herbed vinaigrette.  The waiter asked with what looked like a little concern, “Is that all?”

When the salad arrived, I understood what he meant.  For $9.50, the salad was a bit meager.  With zucchini, carrots, and broccoli, it was fresh but not exactly substantive.  I began looking at the other diners noshing on tofu benedicts and vegan crab sliders and feeling some ordering envy.

The coconut water tasted sweet, like it came from a box, not fresh from the coconut.  I asked the waiter about it.  He kind of laughed and said, “Well, yeah.  It’s just from a box.”  As if it would be silly to think it would be cracked open fresh he said,  “We didn’t bring the coconuts in today.”  That surprised me since I’d had what tasted like fresh coconut water just a couple of weeks before at Karyn’s Raw.

I sent the coconut water back and ordered the butternut squash soup to fill out the meal since I was still hungry.  The soup was made with butternut squash, of course, coconut milk, and guajillo oil.  It was then topped with fried chickpeas.  Despite being made with coconut milk, the soup didn’t have a strong coconut flavor.  It was rich and velvety smooth.  The fried chickpeas were crunchy and a creative alternative to croutons.  I would have enjoyed more of them.

The soup was wonderful, and like I said, my prior visit had been incredible.   Also, my husband had gone earlier in the month and was blown away by his meal. While this particular meal was not a home run, I look forward to going back to Karyn’s On Green again when I’m in the area to sample some of the decadent meals I saw people around me devouring.

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