Chicago is one of the best food cities in the country and the hub of fine dining in the Midwest. There’s no shortage of fancy restaurants, and there is one for almost every cuisine: Mexican, Vietnamese, vegetarian, you name it and we’ve got it. One restaurant that is breaking the mold is Intro. The concept is pretty unique and ingenuitive. Chefs and mixologists collaborate with Executive Chef Stephen Gillanders to create an original menu while working a “residency.” They don’t really focus on one type of cuisine and the menu is constantly changing and evolving. So, it’s possible to never eat the same thing twice at Intro.
For this residency, Executive Chef Gillanders, Chef Aaron Martinez, and Chef CJ Jacobson take on Chinese and dim sum. These unique dishes are inspired by their travels around the world. I remember Chef Jacobson from Top Chef and was very excited to try his food. I even spotted him running around the dining room visiting with friends.
Finding Intro proved to be a bit difficult at first, because it’s nestled inside the Belden-Stratford Luxury Apartments and shares it’s space with Naoki Sushi. The Belden-Stratford’s lobby has a bit of an old world feel and is the complete opposite of Intro’s modern and contemporary vibe. It’s cozy and the music selection is on point, with a lot of Bowie and New Order. Even though it’s an upscale joint, it never feels pretentious. Our server was personable, attentive and very knowledgeable. Let’s be honest though, the real star of Intro is the food, which infuses traditional Chinese dishes with modern and interesting flavors. There are lots of tasty items on the menu, but the stand-out dishes are the duck fried rice and the caramel-lacquered short rib. If there is one thing that is a must-order, it would be the black truffle-egg drop soup. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
If you happen to find yourself in Lincoln Park and have a hankering for Chinese food, give Intro a shot while you can. Who know’s when the menu will change, but either way, it will be a win for sure.
Vegetable Dim Sum: grilled cabbage with numbing spice, bok choy with chicken sausage, and Szechuan tofu and crispy kale
Though the grilled cabbage was a simple dish, the grilled cabbage was very tasty and had an unexpected complexity of flavor. The bok choy with chicken sausage was nice and savory with multiple textures of crispiness from the bok choy, softness from sausage and crunchiness from the cashews. Most people don't enjoy tofu, but it's one of my favorite things when it's done right and here, it was done right. I loved the spiciness of the sauce and the freshness from the crispy kale.
Hot Dim Sum: bbq mushroom bao with sesame mayo, crispy shrimp lollipops, and pearl meatballs with chicken
Bao is one of my favorite kinds of snacks and I was very excited to taste Intro's version. I enjoyed the bbq mushroom and I'm a sucker for sesame anything. The crispy shrimp lollipops were so crunchy and light on the brininess of the shrimp. The sauce was amazing and the perfect accompaniment. I could've eaten those all night. My least favorite course of the night were the pearl meatballs. I love dumplings almost as much as bao and these were disappointing. I know they weren't a tradional dumpling, but the rice coating was weird and the chicken filling was flavorless.
Off Menu: black truffle-egg drop soup with ginger and scallion and the Beijing duck fried rice
Duck can be oily and overdone, but this fried rice was absolutely perfect. The rice had little bits of meat in it and was topped with a savory duck egg to mix. The best part was the crispy bits of skin that added a nice texture and flavor to the whole dish. The black truffle-egg drop soup was a revelation and my favorite dish of the night. There was no imitation truffle or truffle oil in this dish. This was the real deal and man was it delicious. The soup was rich and complex, and the truffle blended so well with the egg, ginger and scallion. It's an unforgettable dish that you’ll want to have again and again.
Large: curry noodles with lemongrass and ginger and caramel-lacquered short rib
The curry noodles was a great noodle/soup course, the texture of the noodles was perfectly al dente and the lemongrass really came through without overpowering the dish. Overall I enjoyed it and it reminded me a bit of Singaporean laksa. The caramel flavoring on the short rib was really creative and something unexpected. Also, I've never had such tender beef before; it literally melted in my mouth.
Dessert: Hong Kong-style tart brulee
The custard was reminiscent of an egg tart that you could find at a traditional Chinese bakery. It was silky with just the right amount of sweetness. The crust was flaky and the hard caramel was a great compliment to the custard. It was the perfect end to an incredible meal.