First Taste: Sixteen

Sixteen restaurant

It was forty minutes, two mediocre cocktails and several bowls of nuts after our reserved seating time, and so far Sixteen was not making a good impression. The space was corporate-chic—that is, to my eye, not very chic at all—and every time a group of two strode past us toward the dining room, I swore it was our table they were taking. A hostess kept dropping by, apologizing for the wait and offering glasses of wine, but I was annoyed enough that I started to find her smile actually...taunting.

“They’re trying,” my boyfriend said, attempting to convince me.

“But not succeeding,” I replied.

Oh yes, I was cranky, so miserably hungry that I doubted anything could turn this meal around. But when we were finally led from the lounge to the dining room, I couldn’t help but feel literally and figuratively uplifted. The oversized windows reminded me that Sixteen takes its name from the floor it occupies in Chicago’s new Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the view is nothing short of exhilarating. There, bigger than you’ve ever seen it, is the Wrigley Building, so close it feels like you could open a window and reach out and turn the hands on its enormous clock.

I felt instantly calmed. But I was still hungry—and anxious to try Chef Frank Brunacci’s food. He seems to have a penchant for sweets in his savories, which isn’t my thing—a fruity, orange-infused polenta distracted from the quail it accompanied (which was a shame, because the quail itself was perfectly cooked); likewise, a nice piece of duck was completely overwhelmed by a date-and-kumquat chutney. Still, Brunacci has an excellent touch with meats and fish, serving an Artic char that was simultaneously sumptuous and flaky, and a suckling pig that slowly melted in my mouth.

Was any of it as good as the view? Not quite. The desserts were particularly disappointing, offering impressive architectural platings but little in the way of flavor. But then again, I’m not sure the food was ever meant to be the main attraction, anyway.

Sixteen 401 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL (312-588-8030)

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