This year hasn’t seen quite as many steakhouse openings as last year, but with the hotly anticipated opening of GT Prime, 2016 is definitely a case of quality over quantity. One of the biggest openings of the year, the new River North steakhouse is unlike anything you’ve seen before in Chicago—or anywhere.
Game-changer of a Steakhouse
Upon entry, guests find themselves in a soaring, transportive room outfitted with some of the most majestic pieces of taxidermy you’ll ever see. There’s a bar that lines the south wall, leading to an open kitchen area. A “floating” staircase leads to a private dining area for 16, decorated with a hanging sculpture of black metal branches and dark crystals. There’s also another main dining room north of the entrance, emblazoned with huge, awe-inspiring food photography murals by Jeff Kauck. Cabernet-soaked concrete floors, a chandelier, and light fixtures that resemble trees are a few more touches that echo that fantastical “cabin in the woods” sentiment.
The restaurant is the latest from Boka Restaurant Group, which proved their meaty mettle last year with Swift & Sons, and Giuseppe Tentori. In line with GT Fish & Oyster just down the street, Prime skews modern and sleek in every way, from the forest fairy tale-inspired design to the format of the menus. One of the most visible ways that Prime is setting itself apart is with its steak portions, available in 4 ounce and 8 ounce cuts. This allows guests to sample different meats, like Wagyu, skirt steak, rib-eye, filet, venison, and bison. There’s also a Carnivore Platter that contains a bit of everything.
For a little “dinner theater,” the open kitchen in the front bar/dining area contains an open hearth bursting with fire. Whether you’re sitting at one of the high-top chairs lined with faux fur along the counter near the kitchen, or overlooking it from the private dining area directly above it, the kitchen is quite the spectacle to witness.
Elsewhere on the menu, Tentori exhibits tenacity for the contemporary with unique dishes like venison with brioche sauce, gnocchi with sweetbread croutons, and veal cheek with lemon grits, miso, and escarole. The beverage program, which is on opulent display behind the bar, pays equal mind to wines and cocktails. The former is the handiwork of sommelier Jon Leopold, who features an abundance of wines from across the globe. Cocktails are courtesy of Danielle Lewis, an alum of GT Fish & Oyster, with a focus on hearty creations like the Golden Ticket, which contains mezcal, Chartreuse, and pepper syrup.
The modern version of steak tartare with raw egg was first served in French restaurants early in the 20th century. What is now generally known as “steak tartare” was then called steack à l’Americaine. Steak tartare was a variation on that dish; the 1921 edition of Escoffier‘s Le Guide Culinaire defines it as steack à l’Americaine made without egg yolk, served withtartar sauce on the side.
Over time, the distinction between steack à l’Americaine and its variant disappeared. The 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes steak tartare as raw ground beef served with a raw egg yolk, without any mention of tartar sauce.
“À la tartare” or simply “tartare” still means “served with tartar sauce” for some dishes, mostly fried fish.
The name ‘tartare’ is now sometimes applied to other meats or fish, such as tuna tartare, introduced in 1975 by the restaurant Le Duc in Paris.