A person should try to fall in love with as many things as possible. I am not easily impressed but when I do fall, I fall fast and hard. Yesterday, I fell in love with an extraordinary meal at Pump Room at Public Hotel in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Here is how it happened.
About 3 or 4 years ago, the famous hotelier, Ian Schrager, purchased the historic Ambassador East Hotel which was once home to the storied restaurant and celebrity mecca, Pump Room. Mr. Schrager decided to keep as much of the 1930’s and 1940’s glamour of the place as possible but with a modern twist.
Although I watched the renovations happening during the last few years, I had not been to the new Pump Room to experience the culinary vision of world-renowned Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean-Georges to those in the know 😉 ) who created the updated menu. He has since left it in the safe and loving hands of Executive Chef Moosah Reaume. Yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a lovely solo lunch. So, I put on a nice dress, donned my cool sunglasses and hopped the CTA Red Line to the Clark/Division ‘L’ stop which is just 1 block south and 3 blocks west of Pump Room.
I entered through the Public Hotel lobby on Division which is beautiful, sleek and cozy. The fireplace was in full roar. After a few moments, I headed into Pump Room where I was greeted with a smile by the gracious hostess. She asked whether I preferred to sit in the bar area or the gorgeous main dining room. I chose to sit in the sunshine by a window in the main room where I could take in a proper view of the romantic space. When I dine solo, I always appreciate being asked where I would like to be seated. A person should never be treated like an outcast just because they are dining solo 🙂
Although, I had a particular fish entree in mind for lunch, a fellow Windy City Blogger, Kit, recently gushed over the tagliatelle pasta with meyer lemon cream, parmesan and black pepper. Kit made this dish sound so great that I switched gears rather quickly. After all, I love ALL things lemony, cheesy and spicy. I also ordered a side of the broccoli with toasted pistachios, chilis, garlic and oil and mint. My terrific server, Clay, warned me that the broccoli side was “very garlicky” to which I replied, “I’m Italian. Bring it on!”
Wow! I was not disappointed. I will go so far as to say this is one of the most perfect meals I have had in a very long time.
All of the pasta at Pump Room, including this tagliatelle, are made in-house. And, it was very evident. The pasta was a pillowy pile of al dente, lemony perfection. It was creamy but not drowning in cream. There was just the right amount of lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan and black pepper to pull it all together. I will also say that the best food is made of the most simple, few ingredients in just the right measure. And, Chef Reaume gets a hearty round of applause from me on this dish! Nothing too heavy or overdone about it.
I made a great choice in balancing out the tagliatelle with the side of broccoli. I love my veggies and, so often, restaurants get them wrong. But, not at Pump Room 🙂 This broccoli was blanched to tender perfection. Then, it was sauteed brilliantly in a generous amount of olive oil (Thank you, Chef!), along with thinly sliced garlic, toasted pistachios, chilis and mint. I miss my Italian-American mama and she would have LOVED this veggie! The broccoli side was served in a small, deep, oblong bowl.
If the bowl had clawed feet and was 5’7″, I would have gladly taken a bath in this “tub of wonderful” 🙂 I would return to Pump Room just for another turn at this broccoli side dish. Well done, Chef!
The current day Pump Room pays homage to the original restaurant by playing soft musical “standards” in the background which is such a thoughtful and soothing touch to the dining experience here. The main entrance to the restaurant on State Parkway is lined with historic photos of all the famous faces who have dined here over the decades. What a lovely and incredible tribute!
I cannot wait to return again in the evening for dinner or cocktails (the cocktail menu looks incredible) when there is live music.
For more information, visit www.pumproom.com. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Red Line to Pump Room. Save gas money. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Don’t drink and drive!