The last time I visited the new-ish Loews Chicago hotel in the Streeterville neighborhood, I was with Liz and her middle daughter and we were too busy with the sightseeing to enjoy a meal at Rural Society, their Argentinian steakhouse. It was a bummer but I made a promise to myself that I’d get back there as soon as I could, to try it out. As it turned out, it happened even sooner than I thought it would!
The kind people at Loews Chicago wanted me to come back too, so they offered to treat Jim and me to a Chef’s Tasting. Naturally I said yes. (You would, too!) I told them I’d be happy to write about my experience, and so here we are. All opinions are mine, of course.
Long story short: I was blown away.
Just kidding (about the “The End” part).
The dining experience we had was completely decadent and truly one of the best in recent memory. Easily. But let me back up for a second and give you some background on Rural Society. This is from the website:
Rural Society is a contemporary Argentine steakhouse from nationally renowned master of Latin cuisine Chef Jose Garces. Inspired by his travels to South America, Rural Society is at once rustic and luxurious, bringing the energy and sophistication of Buenos Aires to Chicago. Our menu and primarily South American wine list, combined with our warm hospitality and welcoming décor, transport you far from the bustle of Chicago to the sweeping cattle ranches and grill-fired kitchens of Argentina.
The restaurant itself is lovely, and you can tell when you walk in that you’re in for something special.
We were told upon being seated that we would also enjoy wine pairings with the Chef’s Tasting. We didn’t argue.
And then, the experience began. Ian, our server, explained that he would be bringing us a pre-course, three main courses, and dessert, with a wine pairing for each course. The plates are all “small” but there was SO! MUCH! FOOD! (Again, we didn’t argue.)
Ian brought out plate after plate, explaining what everything was as we went along. Some things he explained twice, at my request, because I just couldn’t wrap my head around everything. Just to name a few things we tried:
~Carpaccio de Pulpo (Braised octopus, and no I can’t believe I ate it either but it was SO GOOD)
~Morrones (sweet red peppers, whipped eggplant, and anchovies)
~Mollejas (lamb sweetbreads, otherwise known as lamb pancreas and no I can’t believe I ate it either but it was also SO GOOD)
~Fugazza Alcachofas (Argentine foccacia with grilled artichokes, black olives, and fontina cheese)
~Remolachas Rescoldo (Ember roasted beets with orange coriander viniagrette OMG)
~Papas Nury (Crispy roasted potatoes, black truffle Hollandaise)
~Chuletas de Cordero (Lamb chops)
~Picanha (Tri-tip beef)
That’s only part of it. I’m drooling so just look at this nifty collage I made while I grab a napkin for the corners of my mouth.
Honestly, each dish was better than the one before. Every time I declared one to be my favorite, Ian placed something else in front of me and my fickle food brain forgot about what I had just loved. I tried all kinds of things that my typically picky palate would turn away from. What a joy it was to keep an open mind and just go along with this random food journey.
One of the things I loved the most–besides the food, of course–about this deliciously decadent experience was that it was so relaxed, and it took a lot of time. We were there for a little more than two and a half hours, and I can’t remember the last time we had a dining experience into which lingering was built-in and expected. It was glorious.
Another thing I loved, besides the food and the lingering? The outstanding service. Ian and his co-servers Anthony and Lamar took great care of us. At one point about halfway through our meal, Anthony chatted with me for a few minutes about how he loves his job, not only because Rural Society is a fabulous restaurant, but he loves coming in every day and seeing the chefs (hats off to Harol, our chef that evening!) use their creativity to come up with beautiful and great-tasting dishes for their customers. In fact, because we don’t eat pork or shellfish, Harol had to do some impromptu switcheroo magic on that evening’s Chef’s Tasting especially for us. It was so appreciated!
When it was all over (insert sad trombone sound here), we were completely full but very happy. I mean, look at that face.
We will definitely visit Rural Society again to try other parts of the menu, and I see another Chef’s Tasting in our future: maybe for our wedding anniversary this December! Thanks so much to Loews Chicago and Rural Society for letting us come in and be spoiled for the evening, and thanks to our team of servers and chef (Ian, Anthony, Lamar, and Harol) for an unforgettably decadent dinner!