Last week, the latest installment of "Dining Due Diligence" hit the stands in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. Due to a miscommunication with my editor, I accidentally ended up reviewing the same restaurant as another writer, so the two pieces ran side by side in a comparison/contrast format. Here are my thoughts on Acadia, a restaurant in my old neighborhood of the South Loop:
Inside chef Ryan McCaskey's Acadia, a palette of warm greys and whites accented with hints of slate provides an abstract allusion to Maine's rocky coastline, but the elegant furnishings convey none of the rusticity that is conjured by the restaurant's namesake. Despite the stylishly spare ambiance, the overworked food is so overwhelmingly elaborate that it is difficult to remember what one has just eaten.
Cocktails from head bartender Michael Simon start an evening at Acadia on an ambitious note. Every potential drop of flavor is wrung from the mixed drinks — even the ice cubes are flavored. The Sazerac, a New Orleans staple, finds new life in the herbaceous addition of juniper and Creole Bitters, while the Aviation Fizz provides a refreshing lemony palate cleanser.
The attention to detail and reconfiguring of classic pairings did not translate as well to the cuisine. Appetizers were almost universally disappointing from oddly crunchy bits of potato in a mock "risotto" flavored with a creamy truffle sauce, to a tepid, soft-cooked duck egg that lacked sufficient garnishes to soak up the yolk.
Things improved slightly during the second course, where the standout dish of the evening was the deconstructed lobster pot pie. The flesh of the butter-poached lobster was decadently succulent and worked harmoniously with the mélange of vegetables and rich lobster bisque. Slightly less over-the-top were the Deer Isle shrimp, which were perfectly seasoned and coupled with clever "noodles" created from ribbons of squid. The rabbit, however, was abominably handled: its delicate flavor was completely overwhelmed by the bacon wrapping.
Dessert proved to be the most overwrought course. The spice cake, a deconstructed riff on carrot cake, featured two types of ice cream and cubes of compressed pineapple, so pungent that they dominated any bite containing them. The passion-fruit toffee was riddled with chalk-like cardamom cylinders, and the chocolate cremeaux was the most unattractive item to leave the kitchen.
If business brings you to the South Loop, consider visiting the restaurant's bar to linger over a well-crafted cocktail and a light meal from the less pretentious bar menu.