Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago's Hub 51 is Salty and Sweet

Hub 51 on Urbanspoon

I was recently in Chicago for a convention with some co-workers, as it would happen my company also has an office there. An office that services the beer industry, so let’s just say that they have been know to throw a few back.

On one such night, a happy hour turned into “hey its time for dinner” so we decided to eat where we were already sitting, at a place called Hub 51. As of this posting, I am not quite sure if it is a chain, but it seemed a little too polished to be a “one-off.” My guess is that it is part of a larger restaurant group without any flagship brand names but I will update as I find out more.

Overall, I will say some great things about Hub 51, mostly that I would return on future visits to Chicago.

I will start where you are not supposed to, with desert. Simply one of the finest deserts I have had. Wow, I cannot believe I just wrote the statement, but it is true. Butterscotch Pot-de-crème with salted caramel. This treat was the perfect size, possessed bright flavors and a presented a little, salty surprise with each bite. Served in an oversized shot glass, the butterscotch pot-de-crème took up about 80% of the room, with the remainder a gooey caramel. The crème was not too heavily flavored while being light and creamy. Whether the salt was applied between the crème and caramel or inside the caramel, it activated the sweet flavors and this dish would not have been the same without it.

I will mention that before my meal, I enjoyed some smoked, pulled chicken nachos with freshly sliced jalapenos. I was in the bar watching Roy Haladay pitch a no-hitter in the playoffs. Nice to see an Arvada kid do well and someone take ‘bar-food’ seriously enough to use fresh ingredients and great preparation.

Stay with me here but I ordered both Sushi and Filet Mignon Tacos maybe not the first combo you think of but I saw an order of sushi go by right before ordering and had to have some. Spicy tuna is sometimes not the way to go with sushi. Some places take the liberty to mix up the tuna with other ingredients so it is hard to determine the firmness / freshness of the fish. All of the tuna here was in neat little cubes, firm and very fresh. Mine also came with a spicy mayo on the side, something I have not dipped sushi in before. I am sure purists would scoff but I enjoyed the creamy sauce on mine.

Why waste filet mignon on tacos? Well because it is great and it gives you an excuse to eat some freshly prepared guacamole and salsa. It was not until I enjoyed these that I realized many steak tacos I eat have less refined cuts of beef. Often chewy or hard to bite through, I might have a tough time (pardon the pun) ordering them in the future. By contrast, the meat in these tacos was soft and flavorful almost melting in my mouth.

Overall, the service, selection and meal were all pretty darn good and I look forward to working out of our Chicago office soon so I can have another happy hour come dinner at the Hub.

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