I’ve been a fan of Chicago’s own Alpana Singh for awhile and I’ve also followed the buzz around The Boarding House opening. So when the time came, I couldn’t wait to go and sink my tastebuds in!
First, the space: remodeled from a former (you guessed it) boarding house, the restaurant is divided into different levels, with the main bar area on the first floor and the main dining room on the third. This clever design lends to a great experience as the dining room is devoted solely to its intended purpose.
Lots of features with the decor will catch your eye – from the HUGE wine glass ‘chandelier’ in the bar and similar wine bottle installation in the dining room, to the expansive arched windows, marble bar tops, even the exposed brick and turquoise accents combine to make for an upscale yet inviting space.
And, Alpana herself is the best feature! As soon as we were seated, I remember wondering out loud if we would actually get to see her – as soon as I said that, she floated right by us. She eventually stopped by and chatted, proving to be just as charming and accessible as the place itself.
The food and wine offerings are easily a home run. Both food and wine menus are easy to navigate, most items seem casual and accessible, rustic and comforting – yet with an upscale twist that makes everything you taste seem special. For starters we tried the Crispy Cumin Cauliflower and Jamon Serrano, which was an awesome combination of flavors. The Jamon Serrano featured the traditional salty pieces of pork, which meshed deliciously with smoked ricotta, along with radicchio and other greens.
For our entrees we ordered Citrus Poached Salmon and Hazelnut Crusted Short Rib. They were both great portions – the Salmon was a little lighter with brighter flavors, while the short rib dish was darker, both in color and flavor and featured a wholesome base layer of sweet potato.
I had a glass of Chardonnay when we were seated and tried a glass of Malbec with dinner. Was not disappointed with either choice. The wine list is very comprehensive; with Alpana being a master sommelier, if you enjoy wine at all, you’ll certainly enjoy choosing a bottle or glass to try.
Sadly, the only picture I took was of the Sugar Pie, below, which we shared to finish the meal. I wanted to snap more pictures, but our table was front and center in the dining room, close to the entrance. I didn’t want to be that guy flashing a camera - if there’s anything worse than a ‘foodie’, it’s an ‘obnoxious foodie’, amiright?? I just took the one pic inside and hopefully wasn’t so obnoxious about it.
Being there on opening weekend, we were prepared for hiccups. While the kitchen was slow with getting our entrees out, the servers themselves were not slow in taking care of us. We were so happy to be there, we really didn’t mind when the table beside us got their entrees before us, even though we ordered first.
The staff went out of their way to explain how the kitchen was working and asked more than once if we needed anything. Alpana even stopped by again and offered an (unnecessary) apology – and even followed up with a couple glasses of Moscato to go with our Sugar Pie. Goes to show how great service can make up for a new kitchen and mistiming.
Suffice to say, this fledgling hot spot surpassed our expectations. I can’t wait to go back and try other items and even visit their lounge in the cellar level. There’s no doubt the opening kinks will soon work out and The Boarding House will secure it’s classy-and-comfortable place in the landscape of Chicago dining.