The Crudo and Cocktails dinners at Scena Tavern might as well be called: The Nick and Erik Show. And I think it's worth the price of admission.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the new Uptown restaurant holds two 8-seat tasting dinners at the crudo bar, one at 6 p.m. and one at 9 p.m. The show is manned by chef Erik Anderson, who cuts the fish, and Nick Kosevich of Bittercube, who cuts the jokes. And the booze.
Here's the thing: Crudo is a trend that the local chefs are digging, but I think the general public is still in the dark on what makes it different and special enough to skip their usual sushi run. Well, sitting for a 10+ course tasting within 3ft. of a nationally recognized chef is perhaps the way to get at it. The fact that you're getting greased with amazing drinks from a cocktail savant, makes it all the more fun (make sure your Uber app is working and dear god, do not pre-game).
I went last Friday at 6 p.m., and sat with seven others at the bar in the back of the restaurant. Within a few minutes we had all introduced ourselves and were chatting it up. Kosevich poured us our first drink while Anderson and his team were prepping courses just behind. The action is all there right in front of you and the interaction is limited only by how much you want to chat. I kind of love that they didn't give us a menu until the very end, because it kept your expectations in check. Each plate was bought to us and explained, the fish discussed, and the drink pairing broken down. Sometimes there was one drink that lasted for two plates, and sometimes the drink was altered in the middle of a plate so we could experience the change in flavors a drop or tincture made. Here's a sampling of what we had:
We started with salmon roe on a bright basil lemon panna cotta, just a beautiful spoonful, with a little salmon skin chicharrone as garnish. It went with a sparkler of Celebration Aquavit, with a bit of lemon and basil with sparkling wine.
Seabream, a mild white fish that is plentiful and eaten all over the world, in a chilled herb broth went with a gorgeous martini made with Botanist gin, Mother's dry vermouth, and Bittercube orange bitters.
These soft bits were charcoaled mackerel with a bit of juniper oil. This is where the martini from the last course was augmented with a bit of charcoal chili oil and rosemary tincture, which changed everything.
Are the photos getting blurry? Huh. Anyhoo, this one was my favorite. It consisted of a nubbin of hamachi, flecked with bits of cucumber and picholine olives with just a swish of hot bone marrow fat. The drink was a bone marrow fat-washed Hakushu whisky from Japan, which made it silky smooth and unbelievable. The whole thing was just vibrant and brief luxury.
As we wound down the night, we were treated to a bit of raw beef simply dressed with tomato oil, parmesan, and hit with habanero. The shooter/sipper was a spiced tomato reposado sangrita. There was also a bowl of sea urchin and black truffle bucatini to end the night, just in case you were still hungry.
I know I was full, and loudly happy, by the end of the meal. The cost is $100 per person, but when you consider that we had around 11 courses with as many drinks, I thought it was a decent value and an interesting way to spend an evening. If you want to get under the scales of the crudo trend, this is a good way. The dinners won't be a forever thing, once Anderson has to focus on opening his own Brut Restaurant in the North Loop, the dinners will end. But for the next couple of months, he's all yours. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.