Andrew Zimmerman strikes again. A James Beard award winner, Andrew Zimmerman has been a staple of the culinary industry, but now he is delivering on the streets of Chicago. At Proxi, there is a tasting menu and a carte menu, but I already think you know what I am opting for.
To start, a piping hot golden dish of tempura elote arrived. Sectioned off into three little squares, and topped with a smoky mayo, this dish may have been one of my favorites that night. The initial impression was the incredible crunch, but it slowly let way to delicious kernels of corn popping in your mouth, as sweet and savory, and crunchy and juicy melded there way into a perfect harmony.
Shortly after, a beautiful floral bowl arrived at the table, encompassed by green garnish, dark purple noodles and a pale green sauce. The dish was an explosion of not only flavor, but also color. As is typical with soba noodles, the dish was served cold to enhance the flavors of the noodles, especially considering that the noodles were infused with green tea. The sauce on top was a very thin delicate sauce consisting of mainly soy sauce, but also a hint of wasabi that added some space to the back of your mouth. The whole dish was topped with trout roe, providing a savory pop and a bright orange color contrast to the dish.
In the main course came two of the most polarizing dishes of the day. To start off the entrees was a Szechuan Braised Lamb Noodles dish. The noodles were flat wide rice noodles, reminiscent of a biang biang, chewy in every beat and extremely flavorful from the sauce. The lamb shoulder was braised in a schezuan infused sauce, giving it the uniquely spicy and numbing taste, complimenting the more heavy gamey taste of quality lamb. The texture was also spot on with a fall apart mouthfeel, closer to pulled pork than any braised lamb I have had before.
The other family style entree was the dokhla, which was personally the most disappointing dish of the night. Dhokla is a Gujarati lentil (chickpea, rice, dahl) based fermented dish, that has the texture of the sponge, and a nice savory spiced taste with a hint of acid from lemon and fermentation. Although the texture is normally light and airy, and the visual appeal is its sponge-like porous cake look, at Proxi this all went out the window. The dish itself was almost too moist, with a dense texture that ruined the nostalgic taste of dhokla. It also felt over fermented, as the acid overpowered the delicate spices of dhokla. To the chef’s credit, toasted spices provided the proper balance to the dish, it was just a shame the downfalls of the dish overpowered a typical incredible comfort food when done right.
The final main dish of the night was a choice between two dishes, a Sour Orange Curry with Seafood, and a Braised Pork Belly. Seeing the potency of the chef to replicate classic Asian dishes, I decided to go with the Braised Pork Belly and it was not a decision I regretted. The dish was a beautiful culomation of sticky rice, pickled onions, braised pork belly served with a thick slightly sweet sauce. The pork was as expected incredible, falling apart when barely touched, and perfectly absorbing the sauce. It wasn’t marinated in a nice spicy soy glaze that offset the sweeter sauce, and the pickled onions cut through the richness of the fat and sweet, giving an acidic kick and a nice crunch. The rice was also a perfect carb for the dish as opposed to a noodle, as it acted as a nice base to the powerful flavors present elsewhere in the dish. The only complaint I would have had was that I wish some of the fat on the pork belly could have been either cut off or rendered off, but that’s just me being picky.
Chef Partner: Andrew Zimmerman
Location: 565 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL