Sitting on a busy corner in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Perennial Virant is named for Paul Virant, an award-winning chef who has made a name for himself in Chicago for his fresh ingredients and takes on American food. Those fresh ingredients and local producers star in the limited menu of seven appetizers, seven entrees and seven sides. That might not sound like many options, but it's an overwhelming number when everything sounds tempting.
In a warm and casual setting (Mason jar light fixtures), they serve meals with intriguing combinations of ingredients, intense yet delicate sauces, and super fresh flavors. No matter what else you order, don't miss the smoked ham hock beignets, with apple puree and hot pepper vinaigrette, a lively Midwestern rendition of a New Orleans fave. For entrees, the grilled Rushing Waters rainbow trout comes atop braised pearl pasta and sauteed spinach and gets flavor from cilantro, lime and Spanish olive oil with a garnish of grilled sliced leeks ($27). The grilled smokiness complimented the perfectly cooked trout. It was a light-tasting dish with good intensity and a slight kick from minced cherry bomb peppers.
We weren't as fond of the Caverry Farm Rouen Duck Schnitzel, which arrived on a bed of arugula with duck jus, candied lemon and cracklings ($28). Though the crispy exterior was delicious, the overall flavor was disappointing. But for dessert, the homemade ginger ice cream is a knockout. We will definitely go back—we haven't tasted all the options on the menu!