Midwest Living Review
If you know anything about Charlie Trotter's Chicago restaurant, you know that it's among the finest of the world's fine dining, with prices to match. And in 2011, the less-than-1-year-old Ria found itself in Trotter's company after both restaurants received two prestigious Michelin stars. Located in the Elysian Hotel near the Magnificent Mile, Ria delicately balances a sense of simplicity (the standout decor in the dining room is one wall decked with a school of fish skeletons) with sophisticated flavor combinations. You could order off of the menu; appetizers include foie gras with apricot and onions ($26) and lobster consomme with Meyer lemon and sweet potato ($18), while entrees feature wild striped bass with watercress and mussels ($38) and dry-aged strip loin served with bone marrow, hedgehog mushrooms and capers ($50). Most patrons choose the seasonal seven-course locally sourced tasting menu ($120 per person, plus $85 per person for wine pairings expertly explained by the sommelier). During our spring visit, we tried the bright, succulent milk-fed veal loin topped with morels, fava beans and artichokes and the deliciously rich quail stuffed with foie gras. The easy chairs at each table encourage guests to linger and savor the experience, and we definitely did over French press coffee and a carefully constructed dessert of grapefruit, pralines, huckleberries, white chocolate pieces and homemade brown butter ice cream ($12). During our three-hour visit, we enjoyed interacting with the servers; they exude an elegant passion for food and wine that patrons -- many of whom are young professionals -- clearly share. This is definitely worth special-occasion visits; ask about the little-advertised midweek special of a three-course tasting menu for $75.