As the saying goes, your body is a temple. However, Spring, with its exquisite menu and minimalist, Asian décor, certainly looks like a perfect place for Chicago’s foodies to worship. Located in a building that used to host a bathhouse (notice the tile wall behind the bar), this award-winning restaurant exudes a certain type of cool, crisp refinement. A Zen garden greets diners in the entryway, and the bar, a series of zig-zagging countertops, provides a quaint respite before the main course. Inside the sunken dining room, which features crisp white tablecloths, Asian accents and paper light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, a serene sense of balance is obtained.
Chef Shawn McClain (formerly of Trio) rotates the menu often, concentrating heavily on seafood, which is delivered to the restaurant everyday. Mediterranean and Asian influences are also prevalent. His combinations are both daring and delicious; a recent menu included coconut-prawn soup, roasted Pacific sea bream with scallion pancakes and kimchee and an Explorateur Tart with quiche sorbet and port wine reduction. A chef’s tasting menu, with or without wine pairings, is also available if you’d like to sample the kitchen’s latest creations.
With such ambitious fare, it’s no surprise that the prestigious James Beard Foundation nominated Spring as one of the best new restaurants in America in 2001. Complimenting the cuisine is an expansive wine list, which, when printed with a small font, still takes up the full back side of the menu. Everything from sakes to champagne is available, covering every region of the world. Reservations can be hard to come by, so be sure to plan far ahead, especially on weekends. Entrees run in the $25-$30 range, but multiple courses are necessarily to fully experience this restaurant, so expect to spend at least twice that a person, more so if you’d like a nice bottle of wine.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Patrick Sisson