Chicago's Elske

Our reviewer visits a superstar restaurant tucked away in a quiet neighborhood.

Delayed by my transatlantic flight, I arrive at Chicago’s Elske, several blocks west of restaurant mecca Randolph Row, 45 minutes after my reservation time. Nevertheless, I am warmly greeted and shown to a table in its softly lit, loft-style interior.

In its fifth year of Michelin one-star status, Elske wears its success lightly. Run by wife-husband duo Anna and David Posey (the former a Pastry Chef of the Year and the latter a James Beard Award Rising Star finalist), the restaurant serves masterfully executed new American cuisine with Danish accents. 

Because of my late arrival, I opt for a la carte selections rather than the eight-course tasting menu. My calvados and bourbon “Stirred” cocktail arrives, the antidote to jet lag and reservation anxiety, followed by my appetizers. 

Artisan cheese is a feature on the menu, and my wafer-thin slices of gouda, sweetened by a gooey cube of honey and peach jam, is a mellow counterpoint to the plate of umami, lemony anchovies that are, in taste and careful arrangement, an Italian seaside vacation on a plate. I’m unsure whether I detect the fennel pollen amid the salty, fishy riot. 

My main dish is fried shrimp concealed beneath wafer-thin sheets of cantaloupe. It tastes wonderful, with the sweetness and spice from the jalapenos, daikon, and candied ginger exquisitely balanced. The shrimp are the creamiest I’ve ever eaten. 

Dessert is a visual puzzle, a square of sunflower seed parfait ornamented with blobs of sour honey and offset by a pollen-drenched disk of licorice crumble. It’s delicious and extremely rich, and I can’t manage to finish it all. 

I leave through Elske’s serene garden but not before marking the table beside the open fire for my next visit.