Last week I was invited in to try out some new drinks and bites at Amuse, the bar/lounge of the Swissôtel in Chicago. I was pleased to say that the lounge’s décor and lobby placement didn’t make it as depressing as some of my other lone meals I’ve taken in hotel bars while traveling. This time I had two perks, one being that I live in Chicago and could go home that evening, and second that I was lucky enough to have Taste Tester #1 to accompany me.
For a hotel bar I was impressed that the menu, along with the drink specials change with the seasons. Our hostess and waitress for the evening, Mariana was very welcoming and helpful when it came to choosing the dishes and drinks we wanted to try. She was also very modest, the manager had to tell us that she had come up with a bunch of the delicious drinks that were on the summer menu, and had even won the hotel’s summer mixology contest, with her drink being featured on the glass table-toppers. TT #1 enjoyed this drink, called the summer elixir, so much that I didn’t even get to try one sip! I tried a cocktail that had strawberry puree, cardamom, simple syrup and vodka. It was both refreshing on this muggy Tuesday, and equally as delicious.
The menu is set up into three sections: snacks, taste/share, and light meals. In order to try as many different things as possible, we decided to order several dishes of the taste/share menu. Mariana recommended we try the sharing portion of the short rib sliders that came with a pickled red onion and horseradish aioli, the taste portion of the asiago gnocchi, a taste portion of the fried avocado with lump crab and remoulade, and she surprised us by bringing out the tilapia fish tacos as well. One thing I enjoyed about all four dishes was that they were relatively light, which is something I look for in a summer menu.
The short rib sliders were probably my favorite dish of the evening, especially since they were cooked particularly well, you could tell that they had just fallen off the bone before being placed with just the right amount of horseradish aioli on a pillowy slider bun. Besides the meat being cooked so well, I immediately wanted to write the chef for the recipe for his pickled red onions. I loved that the onions weren’t sliced too thinly; they still had a nice crunch and a perfect flavor combination of sweet and sour. I also very much enjoyed the fried avocado dish, which according to Mariana is a unique invention of the hotel’s chef. It was very texturally pleasing and had a generous amount of crab on top of it, enough that when TT #1 and I split the taste portion, we were both satisfied with the amount of crab we got.
I was a little hesitant to order the gnocchi on the menu as I usually consider pasta more of a warming winter dish, but it came highly recommended by Mariana so we ordered the small taste portion to share. It’s very rare for me to enjoy gnocchi as I find it hard to indulge in a doughy chunk of pasta that usually has way too much flour, making them dense and often flavorless. I was surprised in two ways with this gnocchi; one for the fact that it was actually very light and two for the fact that it was stuffed with asiago cheese. I was also pleased with how well the asparagus was cooked in the dish, and that the truffle sauce on top was not overwhelming.
The tilapia tacos were my least favorite of the dishes we tried, but that might just be because I make a pretty awesome fish taco myself. One thing I will give the tacos is that the tilapia was either baked or pan-seared and it wasn’t fried. Fried food is also something I try and avoid in the summertime and this fish was cooked and seasoned well. Oh and if you would rather drink your dessert, opt for one of the chocolate martini’s, they are outstanding! They even had a white chocolate one which I had!
Overall I had a very good experience, and would definitely rate Amuse as one of the tastiest hotel bars I’ve had the experience of dining at. The food was fresh, fit well with the season, and the bar itself was lively and bright even in the evening hours. If you try it out, I’d highly recommend the short rib sliders, and don’t share them either!