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The seafood arm of this swanky downtown resto is marked by a strong devotion to sustainability and seasonal fixings. An innovative menu of hot and cold dishes - all of them immediately emblematic of The Chase’s powerful desire to let the natural taste of the ocean-derived main player get top billing - is what’s most remarkable about this luxe spot. The place, all bright lights and handsome furnishings, looks great. Throw in thoughtfully prepared seafood dishes and a high-end selection of vino with which to wash it down and you can call your pursuit of an excellent meal fulfilled at The Chase Fish & Oyster.
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Review: Cut to The Chase

 
By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on August 29, 2013

I'm aware of only one restaurant in the entire world that Ralph Lauren actually designed, every last piece of furniture lovingly handpicked by himself for RL in Chicago. But I could swear he had something to do with The Chase Fish and Oyster at the restored Dineen...

I'm aware of only one restaurant in the entire world that Ralph Lauren actually designed, every last piece of furniture lovingly handpicked by himself for RL in Chicago. But I could swear he had something to do with The Chase Fish and Oyster at the restored Dineen heritage building on Temperance because only that WASP wannabe, Mr. Lifshitz himself, could possibly make a tired nautical theme look this glamorous.

Ceiling-suspended canoes, ticked linen draperies, squishy soft, upholstery-studded chairs connote that supping seaside feeling on Nantucket, the east coast playground of the super rich and Christiane Amanpour. Even the font of the restaurant logo is bang on perfect. Style this drop-dead gorgeous is indeed rare; and don't get me started on The Chase, the fabulous fifth floor dining room and patio or I might have to submit this column to Elle Décor instead.

But like any new eatery open only a few weeks, there are a few minor glitches, i.e. having to wait upwards of 20 minutes for a glass of water so I can take my medication. And service is a bit slow and confused, but the servers are cordial and really aim to accommodate, especially responding to a request to lower the music so diners can actually have a conversation without straining their vocal chords.

Food may take a bit too long between courses, but someone knows what they're doing in the kitchen, most of the time. Sure the menu has options like flank steak ($28), lamb chops ($26), fried chicken ($20) and a burger ($20) that boasts flank, sirloin cap and rib eye, but The Chase is the place to indulge in seafood, and you absolutely must try a half dozen shigoku oysters ($4.50 each) from Washington State. These scoop-shaped sea creatures are perhaps the deepest and cleanest mollusks out there; soft and silky with a slight cucumber finish; even the Caraquets ($3.50 each), just slightly brinier slide down effortlessly. And while you are teased by other "Fancy Sauces," there's utterly no need for the added expense; the supplied mignonette and cocktail sauce do the trick just fine, thank you.

A summer chowder ($13) with clams, mussels, smoked sturgeon, sweet corn, peas and whipped mascarpone is a divine concoction, like the first course in heaven. But a crab toast ($21) will have you weighing anchor here on a regular occasion. The trio tower high above sea level with fresh crab, bacon, tomato and a chili aioli on thick focaccia, making this open faced sandwich a bit hard to eat without everything spilling on the table. But with ingredients this satisfying, the risk of ruining your Etro shirt is worth every bite.

Raw halibut ($21) ceviche with a picante habanero salsa could use a trifle more "cooking" in citrus, but a bit more worrisome is that it is served at room temperature. The dish finds some redemption with a tomato water gelee, the kind of precious food jewel you might expect when dining a la Susur Lee or Claudio Aprile. The gorgeous geometric looks like a rose-coloured piece of Lalique. Take a bow, then get to work on chilling that fish before someone gets sick.

I applaud this kitchen for trying to reinvent the typical seafood house experience. So don't expect your typical deep-fried fish and chips. In its place is a crispy pickerel salad ($23) that you won't soon forget. The heavily crusted, yet greaseless, pickerel reveals moist, flaky meat served alongside a combination of radicchio slaw and insanely scrumptious handmade potato chips that elevates deli to an entirely new class of cuisine. The only oversight is the decision to rest this dish on a smothering shmear of tartar sauce that only ends up interfering. Much like a hummus with too much tahini, a little ramekin off to the side would suffice. Crispy shrimp ($24) with heirloom tomatoes, romaine and a buttermilk dressing is a bit of a disappointment, too: I mean if a seafood restaurant can't serve a perfect shrimp then something ain't right with the world. Portion size notwithstanding, they are mealy and gummy. Another issue lies in the lobster Waldorf roll ($28) with perhaps too much "Waldorf" (candied walnuts, apple and yogurt) and not enough seafood enveloped by a lovely milk bun. A roll only ever needs a touch of lemon, some diced pickle and a bit of mayo. Heck, even McDonald's understands this with its' McLobster.

Rounding out the meal is a blueberry pie with a dotting of homemade scones ($9). An odd combo for sure, but the thick fruit paste is a classic summer filling. As is a tower of airy whipped cream. Too bad about the damp pastry that squishes too easily between your fingers. Take it all away but the scones and you have a winner.

Clearly, chef Michael Steh (Reds) needs to rethink the execution of some of these menu items, as does Steven Salm (e11even). Both have scads of experience making high-end dining approachable. Now if they can only finesse their existing menu, The Chase could turn into a downtown mainstay in the financial district. Heck it better: I hear the owners spent upwards of five million dollars getting this place up and running--and it shows.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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1 Comment for The Chase Fish and Oyster (Lower Level)

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Eric LeCarde does not recommend The Chase Fish and Oyster (Lower Level)

Not what I expected
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