Why should kids and soccer moms have all the fun at teppanyaki tables watching cooks make onion volcanoes and cracking eggs in mid air? If food is art, it can also be drama, as evidenced by these show-stopping tableside preparations around Chicago. They give the term “dinner and a show” a whole new meaning.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
300 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Chicago Cut Steakhouse, featured as one of America’s Top Ten Steakhouses in USA TODAY, is the only steakhouse in the city to exclusively serve USDA-certified prime steaks, which are butchered and dry aged on the premises. Beef is king here, however, fin-atics can be the center of attention when ordering fresh Dutch dover sole meuniere. The largest whole dover sole available on the market is seasoned with salt, white and black pepper, lightly dusted in flour and pan fried in clarified butter for a golden crust. It arrives with a lemon, toasted slivered almonds and lemon butter sauce and waitstaff expertly debones it tableside. In addition, all salads and shared sides are mixed together tableside and portioned out evenly at the table. David Flom, proprietor of Chicago Cut Steakhouse, reminds us that “guests can enjoy their meal inside or outside on the patio overlooking the river for a one-of-kind experience.”
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 E. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Food performance has been center stage at Lawry’s for more than 70 years. Serving salad before the main course is a tradition that started at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in 1938 and you can still be dazzled by the original spinning bowl salad spun tableside on a bed of ice, then served on a chilled plate with an icy salad fork. Servers stand on tiptoe to achieve the perfect pour of signature dressing. Lawry’s Roasted Prime Rib is hand-carved tableside atop shiny silver-colored carts by master carvers who train for six months. It’s not a job for a wimp. The cart, modeled after the English Sheffield roast beef cart, weighs nearly 800 pounds when fully loaded.
Sun Wah BBQ
5039 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
The daunting menu offers everything from salted fish with diced chicken fried rice to rice soup with pork stomach, kidney and intestines so you know this is authentic Chinese food. For a real treat, give Sun Wah a call and reserve either the Beijing duck feast or baby pig carved tableside. The duck is prepared with five spices, salt, sugar and bean paste sauce on the inside and a vinegar and molasses glaze on the outside before roasting for 45-60 minutes. The beautifully browned bird is carved tableside and served with steamed bao buns and condiments for wrapping. The carcass with remaining meat is toted back to the kitchen to make duck broth with wintermelon and duck fried rice for the next presentation. The meal is topped off with homemade sorbet. Tableside-carved baby pig is similarly seasoned and recommended for a group of about 10-14. Reserve a week in advance.
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185 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Eddie Merlot’s specializes in hand-cut prime meats and classic American dishes using from-scratch techniques with a number of dishes prepared tableside. You haven’t really had a Caesar salad until you’ve had it prepared in front of your eyes to your particular taste and you may as well go on to Act II of the food show with steakhouse favorite steak Diane, a tenderloin flamed tableside with brandy, mushrooms and herbed demi-glace. If you can’t get to Brennan’s in New Orleans where bananas Foster was created, Eddie Merlot’s showstopper version is a fine understudy. Myers’s Jamaican dark rum, brown sugar, butter and bananas are flambéed tableside before being served over vanilla bean ice cream. Another dessert option, vanilla cognac brownie, is flambéed before you with vanilla-infused cognac and served with hot fudge, raspberries and vanilla ice cream. There are two additional locations in Burr Ridge and Warrenville.
2300 N. Lincoln Park W.
Chicago, IL 60614
The place of your gastronomic dreams may not be in Paris or El Bulli in Spain, but rather Lincoln Park. Chef Matthew Kirkley, who previously steered kitchens at the Four Seasons and NoMI as well as serving as sous-chef at Restaurant Joël Robuchon, is one of a handful of Chicago chefs producing edible art nightly. His current tableside presentation is called “Quail in Mourning,” a quail stuffed with coarsely ground duck and chicken thigh meat and foie gras. It is then covered in black truffles. It’s cut in half and served tableside with brûléed onion “cups” filled with an alternating mixture of truffled sunchoke purée and smoked cherry puree. Finally, it is sauced with a 23-flavor gastrique and it’s love at first bite.
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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.