Hours: Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days
Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight
CLOSED. Contemporary American in the Essex Inn Hotel.
Housed in the newly renovated, now eco-friendly Essex Hotel, Tribute has all the makings of a much-needed addition to the South Loop restaurant market. But for now, anyway, there are too many poorly executed elements to pass off simply as opening jitters. On our visits the very patient waitstaff was put in the awkward position of improvising excuses for oversights and omissions. An overly creamed potato-leek soup was supposed to be garnished with crispy leeks and herbs, but came bearing only a leaf of green garnish. Our server explained that the missing and much-needed leeks were probably mixed into the soup, either that or maybe they were an heirloom variety called "crispy." On another visit a beet and smoked-trout salad arrived without the trout. Roasted chicken with jus can be such a soulful dish, but Tribute's tribute to the classic—cosmetically tanned sous vide chicken quarters with a salty pan sauce—seems sad in comparison with the real deal. A hamachi crudo was swimming in lime juice and tasted like a white-bread version of Chilean ceviche. It's arguable that the hamachi and the chicken can be written off as a chef's poetic license, but there's no such justification for a Slagel Farms strip steak ordered medium rare and served mostly medium well; gloopy cheddar mashed potatoes and giardiniera failed to sweeten the deal. My dining chum's duck breast came out a rubbery rare, without even a hint of crispiness to the skin. A patty melt, requested medium rare, arrived very rare—more like seared tartare—but was still delicious despite the fact that the patty wasn't warm enough to melt the American cheese. Making items from scratch doesn't always produce a better product. Crafting your own American cheese just seems bizarre, bordering on parody. The house-made English muffin parked under the eggs Benedict brunch offering chewed like leather, and the warm shortbread cookie served with kaffir lime custard tasted past its prime, leaving a rancid butter aftertaste on the palate that not even a cup of Intelligentsia coffee blend could erase. I got the silent treatment after making my boyfriend take a bite of it—though on the walk home from dinner he finally said, "What's the opposite of lipstick on a pig?" Indeed.
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