When we review restaurants, we follow the same protocols as when we evaluate hotels: We always dine anonymously and pay full price for our meals. In 2021, circumstances restricted our culinary explorations to North America and Europe, but we were fortunate to experience numerous superlative meals in a variety of beautiful settings. Some of our favorites were in unexpected locations that aren’t necessarily associated with fine dining.
One of Chicago’s newest Michelin stars, this jewel box of a restaurant is well worth the short cab ride from downtown. I loved its maximalist décor, combining rich textures, saturated colors and lively patterns, but the superb northern Spanish and Portuguese cuisine is the real draw. It’s rare to find restaurants in the United States that focus on these seafood-heavy culinary traditions, and I suspect few do it better or more creatively than Porto. In particular, the fatty dry-aged Galician turbot with fermented tomato, monkfish liver sauce, favas and dashi foam was a special treat, since the fish appears infrequently on American menus, and the presa Ibérica pork with a cabbage-vermouth purée, fermented mustard and smoked pork jus was a savory sensation. Our waitress made excellent outside-the-box wine recommendations, such as a light and zesty red from the Canary Islands. The cocktail list, too, was unique. My gin-based “Crepúsculo” was black with squid ink, for example, and the old-fashioned-like “Humo y Sal” came with a puff of cherrywood smoke. Porto breaks new culinary ground in Chicago and does it with great style. Closed Monday and Tuesday.