Where We're Eating: Chicago Restaurant Week

We're working on our plan of attack for the second annual Chicago Restaurant Week, kicking off this Friday, Feb. 20 and running through next Friday, Feb. 27. That's eight days, 16 meals (counting lunch and dinner, of course) and some 130 eateries all over Chicagoland. Participating restaurants will be offering three-course prix-fixe lunches for $22 and three-course prix-fixe dinners for $32. With a little strategy, we're up for the challenge. Here are some of the menus that piqued our interest and made it into our (already stuffed) calendars:

Offering both the $22 lunch and the $32 dinner menus, River North's sustainable-chic Farmerie 58 will be serving up some of the restaurant's most popular dishes during Chicago Restaurant Week. We're having a tough time deciding between the afternoon and evening menus. Lunch features a butternut squash veloute with roasted chestnut, sage and toasted garlic; an Amish chicken sandwich with tomato and wilted spinach-parmesan fondue; and a ginger creme brulee with peach-passion fruit puree and fresh berry salad. (In fact, a $22 lunch menu is a staple at Farmerie 58, offered as the "Power Lunch Prix Fixe.") The dinner service brings a crab-saffron fondue with brie, cream cheese and garlic toast points; a pork chop with cranberry stuffing, apple chutney, roasted fingerling potatoes and sauteed rapini; and a chocolate tart with banana sorbet, chocolate-black pepper creme fraiche and espresso sauce.

Also located in River North is Le Lan, an Asian restaurant with dishes rooted in French technique, which is offering a special dinner menu for Chicago Restaurant Week. Choices of either a curried butternut squash soup with shrimp dumpling and Thai basil or soba noodles with marinated Chinese eggplant and basil seed vinaigrette await diners for the first course; shrimp and mussels in a chile-coconut broth with pork belly and rice cake or a Thai chile-smoked hangar steak with coconut polenta, braised winter greens and cilantro vinaigrette tempt for the main course; and Valrhona chocolate molten cake with orange zest ice cream and burnt honey or coconut bread pudding with caramel-braised pineapple and coconut-rum ice cream make for enticing dessert options. 

Simplicity is the key to Zest's Chicago Restaurant Week lunch and dinner menus, without skimping on satisfying flavors. The restaurant, which is found within the InterContinental Chicago on Michigan Avenue, features contemporary American cuisine and stunning views of the Magnificent Mile, perfect for an afternoon or evening meal. The Restaurant Week lunch menu will offer a sweet plantain bisque with a crispy plantain chip and macadamia nuts as a first course; a sweet corn-fed farm chicken with mushroom risotto and farm vegetables for a main course; and a lemon tart with strawberry salad for dessert. Dinner courses include a short rib cake with baby arugula salad and smoked fermented tomatoes for starters; a crab-crusted king salmon with mushroom polenta, green asparagus and wholegrain mustard foam for an entree; and an open-face blueberry strudel with vanilla ice cream for a sweet finish.

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