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October 23, 2014

Eating Out Chicago:
First Dates are Delicious

BY
ERIC WILKERSON

First Dates are Delicious
Trying a new restaurant is like going on your first date after a long-term relationship just ended. Will you like the flavors? Will you appreciate the decor? What do you wear? Is this going to be a good fit? Will you go out again or is this just a one-night-stand? Who knows? This is all part of fearing the unknown.

Humans are creatures of habit. Habits aren't necessarily bad but habits are easy. Habits are comfortable. Habits are consistent parts of our lives and sometimes it's hard to break those habits. Sometimes, the habits break you. You've had one habit for a little over three years now. It's the best habit you've ever had. This habit is delicious, sexy, ambitious, and it makes you feel like no other habit has ever made you feel. This habit happens to be on the corner of your favorite intersection in the city and while you pass by every day, you only stop and enjoy this habit every Friday night. Then, one day, you decided to break this habit and try something different. Or, maybe the habit decided to break you and its doors closed unexpectedly. Maybe it was a mutual break up... who knows. Someday, it might open its doors again, and while you will be excited for the reconnection, you'll be cautious about eating there again. Either way, it was time to part ways and you needed to try something new this next Friday night. Perhaps you'll try something a little more delicious? Will there be anything as delicious though? How scary. The unknown, that is.

Dinner reservations are at 8:30 p.m. It's a swanky restaurant in the trendy West Loop. It's called La Sirena Clandestina. You live in the North part of Chicago, so going to the West Loop is an absolute treat. You found this restaurant one of three ways: A) An online app that has a picture of its sexy menu that you just couldn't resist; B) A friend of a friend of a friend who has this friend that highly recommends this restaurant; or C) You bump into this restaurant every now and then, finally have the balls to get his phone number, swiftly making a reservation.

C, the letter C is how you found this restaurant. You get there promptly at 8:30. You are instantly impressed. While you haven't taken a dive into the menu yet, you've definitely inherited a bird's eye view of what to expect. Dim lighting, reclaimed wood, restored furniture, colors of gray, teal, and mahogany all make up the concoction of this well dressed man. He's trying to impress you and it is working.

First Dates are Delicious
It's time to get to know one another and the perfect bottle of red wine is a good way to begin this relationship. Fruitful, bold, and confident flavors, a swirl of your wine glass, and a slow sip of this tasty blend has created the recipe for a perfect first date. If all goes well, the rest of the night should fall into place beautifully. Is it bad that you are already getting excited about dessert?

First Dates are Delicious
The menu is not only well put together, but it has a magnetic personality, especially for a pescetarian. Delighted with dishes that include ceviche, octopus, and lobster, it was hard to decide what to do. So, asking for advice was the perfect resolution. It's okay to ask questions on the first date. Amongst effortless conversation and a few dances of the eyes, out came the brussels sprouts salad which incorporated an interesting combination of almonds, radicchio, manchego, and lemon. This was an arousing moment... when earthy flavors complimented the bursting tastes of citrus. Two separate categories of flavors, personalities if you will, share this moment of excitement as their words collide into one bite. It was absolute bliss. Served next were seared scallops. Accompanied with pickled beets, a cauliflower puree, and an appropriately spicy sauce, the scallops would make your mouth drool. These meaty little creatures of the sea were adequately savory after the brussels sprout salad. As a matter of fact, you went back to that earlier moment to capture the remnants of those arousing flavors. Then you take a break. This is an intensely wonderful first date but you need to slow it down a bit. Savor the palatable experience of the confident bottle of red deliciousness. Embrace this sexy atmosphere and enjoy this magnetic personality.

You accept an exotic recommendation and agree to order something called Moqueca. You have no clue what this is. You can't feel ignorant on the first date so you go along with it and act like you know what this dish could possibly be. Google instantly becomes your best friend and you discover that moqueca is simply a "Brazilian recipe based on salt water fish stew in coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and coriander." Now that we have a clear understanding of what just happened, the moqueca has arrived. This fish, mussel, and shrimp stew is the perfect end this part of the date. There are no bold and surprising flavors. There was nothing arousing. There was nothing sensual about this dish. And that's okay. It worked. It made sense. And it was the perfect last entrée.

You have finished the meal and the bottle of wine is nearing its end. There's an opportunity for dessert. You're full. You have to work tomorrow. He has to work tomorrow. So... do you order dessert? No. You order a dessert drink... because that's sexier and less committal. It could also lead to a happy ending. [Not the kind of happy ending that you're thinking... but a true happy ending to a perfect evening of dining out] Nothing about cake is sexy, by the way. Cake doesn't seal the deal for that next date. Parfaits don't say "take me home and let's get wild." But La Sirena Clandestina's signature cocktail, the caipirinha, does. Sweet, tasty, and fittingly captivating, the deal is sealed and there's definitely going to be a second date. This trendy venue serves brunch, so perhaps this will be our next experience. Until then, this has been a delicious first date.

La Sirena Clandestina, 954 W. Fulton Market, 312.226.5300

Images from lasirenachicago.com.

 
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