Article: Elske is the #2 Best New Restaurant 2017 | The French Pastry School

Article: Elske is the #2 Best New Restaurant 2017

Elske is the #2 Best New Restaurant 2017
JULIA KRAMER/ bon appétit |
August 17, 2017

Love leads people to do crazy things. I’m not talking about sending stalker-y notes or sky-writing someone’s name from an airplane. What I have in mind is much riskier: opening a restaurant together.

And yet, it’s those husband-wife (or husband-husband, or wife-wife) partnerships that have a tendency to result in the most personal, intimate restaurants—the kind where the chef-owners take a sense of ownership in every minuscule detail.

Within minutes of my first time visiting Elske—whose Danish name translates to love—I had a feeling I might be in such a place. There was something about the way the folks at the host stand greeted guests, as if they were genuinely happy they were there. Sitting at a banquette in the bar area, I rested my drink on a custom table that protruded from the wall. And then it dawned on me how, well, un-thoughtful every other restaurant was for not building in the same convenient solution for bar snacks. When a young man brought out two cups of broth (the first course of the tasting menu), he did so with a mixture of pride and awkwardness that could only come from having made the dish himself; the cooks at Elske serve their own dishes. And when I smelled that broth (which the restaurant calls a “tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables”), it was like an entire magical forest had been distilled into that porcelain cup.

In the kitchen are David and Anna Posey: he the former chef of Chicago’s iconic Blackbird; she the one-time pastry chef of the Publican. Their food aesthetic is hard to describe. Perfect execution is the baseline, as it is at fine-dining restaurants of this caliber around the country. You know, for instance, that the grilled wagyu will be a gorgeously rosy pink from edge to edge, with a slim, deep-mahogany jaggedy crust.

It’s where the Poseys go from there that makes Elske’s food feel so of the moment—and right at home in Chicago, our newly-crowned Restaurant City of the Year. The dishes do not show off, or gesture in the direction of gimmickry. Their approach is clean and modern. Whether it’s soft-scrambled eggs with confitted chicken thighs (David’s) or a citrus sundae with barley-malt caramel (Anna’s), the presentation is minimalist. It might even be characterized as austere. But it all tastes so intuitive that those words never come to mind. Whether you order the eight-course tasting menu ($85) or à la carte, the experience feels at once special and comfortable.

Part of what makes Elske so unique is that it’s the rare restaurant where the same philosophy informs both the food and the design. The room is spare but warm: Windsor-backed black chairs and simple wooden tables look timeless; the plant wallpaper in the bathroom (drawn by Anna) and the painting behind the bar (from David’s brother) add charm.

At the end of that first meal, a server asked if we’d like to have a hot cocktail on the large outdoor patio, where there are a few benches draped in animal pelts, arranged around a roaring fireplace. It could not have been more than 30 degrees, yet looking out the window, I saw a couple out in the freezing cold doing just that. See what I mean about love causing you to do crazy things?

Get the recipe:

Black and White Sesame Tarts

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