surf globally, eat locally
December 2012

Michael Jordan Rules His Chicago Steakhouse
By Marcia Frost

I had been invited to the opening night party of the Michael Jordan Steakhouse about a year ago. When I went back recently for lunch it was hard to resist sitting in the booth that had been occupied by Michael Jordan and his former Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippin. It’s also the same booth that M.J. still comes and sits in often.

The frequent presence of Michael Jordan is just one indication that this is not a celebrity chain restaurant. The man with his name on this fine dining establishment, right on Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s Intercontinental Hotel, wants to make sure the food lives up to his reputation. He does that by leaving the how to details to the pros, and stopping by frequently to make sure everything is up to par.

Mixologist Peter Vestinos was hired to come up with a cocktail menu that would complement the steakhouse. He seems to have done a good job from what I tasted. I thought The Danish Sangria (Block 9 Pinot Noir, Cherry Herring, Saccharin, Peruvian Pisco and soda) was excellent, with the Cherry Herring bringing out the red fruit in the wine. I also liked the Old Cuban (Bacardi 8 Rum, mint, lime, simple syrup and Argyle Brut) as a good aperitif.

You need a nice cocktail to have with the garlic bread. An order of garlic bread here is as much an experience as it is a delicious treat as the waiter comes and pours a fondue made with Wisconsin Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Cheese directly on the bread. It was so delicious my friend Cortney and I were tempted to order another, but the waiter reminded us there was plenty more to taste.

For a main course, the House Smoked Local Brisket BBQ on a Pretzel Roll was messy, but so worth it. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t the kind of place to lick your fingers. Cortney had the crab cake and it didn’t look like any I had ever seen. You could see all the sweet thick flakes that tasted as good as they looked.

Dessert is also spectacular, with the 23 Layer Chocolate Cake highlighting the menu. We had to (of course) try it, but were also tempted by a few others so we asked for some samples. The cake was good, but not quite fudgy enough for me. I didn’t have any complaints, though, with the incredible Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie or the Maple-Mascarpone Cheesecake.

While we were digesting, we spoke a bit with Chef Craig Couper, whose signature dish is the Grits & Shrimp with black truffle. He and Executive Chef James O’Donnell collaborate quite a lot when it comes to creating dishes, but there’s always input from Michael Jordan. He lets the chefs know if there’s something he wants to add to the menu.

The dinner menu includes a selection of steaks, including a 16 oz. Prime Delmonico that is dry-aged and served with a ginger-balsamic vinegar. There’s also fish, shellfish and the tender Colorado Lamb Chops (with a Merguez sausage crust and a spicy yogurt sauce) I had eaten at the grand opening party.

So what exactly does the man who led the Windy City to six national championships like to eat? Jordan keeps it simple when he comes into the steakhouse. He loves the bone-in filet mignon with French fries, the crab cake and the garlic bread. You also may spot Jordan in his favorite booth on a Monday when the Wagyu burger is served. And, if he happens to feel like splurging, it’s going to be on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

A man after my own heart -- or at least taste buds.

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