Whenever my dad comes to town, his visit turns into a three-day packed adventure of eating at all of my favorite spots in the city. Places I never get the opportunity to go to due to transportation limitations or money availability (hate to admit it but it’s true). Weeks before his arrival, my computer becomes quite familiar with Yelp! and those hidden gems that display the four or five-star ratings. My dad has this huge infatuation with going to at least ONE steak restaurant per visit. He gets his choice of where to dine (with my discretion) and then I get my pick. But to be honest with you, since I am the one making the reservations, I tend to sneak my way around his steak wishes.
Since I am not a red-meat eater, seafood is my go-to. I can’t tell you how many times I eat salmon every week and we ALL know my mind is constantly on tacos (specifically shrimp or mahi mahi). Luckily, my dad feels the same way about me on this, therefore it’s the next best option to dining at steak restaurants.
As I was trying to scope out a reservation for our Saturday night dinner and I knew every single steak (with minimal seafood selections per usual) restaurant was booked from 6p.m. to 9p.m., I figured my next best route was picking a place I’d been to previously. Maybe a place that was popular but not on the level of a #1 top-rated steakhouse. That’s when I thought back to one of my favorite seafood experiences in the city… dining at GT Fish & Oyster.
Fun little fact: The first time I ever dined at GT Fish & Oyster was actually the first time my dad ever came to visit me in Chicago when I first moved here two years ago!
When I mentioned the idea to my dad, he seemed thrilled (which is hard to do when picking restaurants that please him). Of course the only reservation slot I could pull was 5:45p.m. but that goes to show ya just how badly you need to make reservations in advance in the city! My dad has maybe visited at least six times now and every time I still forget this tip.
Another little fact? This was the first seafood restaurant I ever ate octopus at and since then (two years back), I’ve dabbled in my fair share of octopus at other restaurants but none quite compete to GT’s.
Last weekend was my third time trying their octopus and each time, the preparation is completely different. Although they keep a few favorites around including the heart of the dish (i.e. octopus), the Michelin star-chef Giuseppe Tentori is always switching up the flavors and vegetables that accompany it in order to deliver a constantly updated menu. GT Fish & Oyster does a terrific job at pleasing everyone’s palates, specifically the foodie in me who loves the small plate concept. The more the merrier!
Because the plates are tapas style, ranging in prices from their $5 fried oyster po’boy to their $175 caviar, they are meant to be shared. However, if you are a hangry individual like myself, you will order two for yourself as your appetizer and entree.
My dad began his meal by ordering a mixture of six different oysters, from the East and West coasts. I mentioned to our waiter I was not too keen on oysters due to their slippery texture but when he challenged me to try one, naturally I dove right in. The verdict? I really enjoyed it! But the real winner of the night… the grain salad. Holy COW!
Who would have thought I would find my favorite salad at one of the country’s top rated seafood restaurants? Go figure. This grain salad was comprised primarily of faro and a creamy cashew-based sauce, topped with thinly shaved vegetables (and all of my favorite ones at that). As if it couldn’t get any better, a runny egg yolk and smoked salmon topped it all off. I’ll forever be dreaming about this salad. Check out those colors!
I wanted to be different and get a dish I had never tried before after face planting into the grain salad but when I saw the octopus again, it called my name. Paired with salsa verde and pickled corn, my heart did a happy little dance. Can we take a look at that little heirloom tomato at the top? So plump and perfect, just the right size to go with a slice of octopus. The dish was mild, refreshing and to my surprise, extremely filling despite the first glance.
My dad, on the other hand, tried the halibut. Piled over a shallow pile of lobster bisque, he ate it up in a heartbeat.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the best part of our meal, let alone the experience, at GT Fish & Oyster was. This work of art: the nectarine upside down tart. A sweet treat on the house, this colorful masterpiece done by pastry chef Andrea Bonitatibus consisted of a brioche pillow filled with a lightly sweetened goat cheese cream. Followed by a topping of pickled nectarine and blackberry bits, a pepita streusel and finally, one little dollop of blackberry sorbet.
When the manager arrived at our table with the plate, the little sorbet dollop fell off and immediately he headed back to the kitchen to fix it. All so I could capture the perfect shot! My dad found this ridiculous, I found it charming.
For one who has a difficult time indulging in desserts and breaking out of my “must eat 100% healthy” mindset, this dessert made me feel nothing but incredible feelings. I kept reminding my dad to eat it slowly to enjoy every bite but he was too infatuated that he practically stole it all away from me! I did, however, get to steal a few bites back from him. A spoonful of the fresh fruit with the streusel and I was floating on cloud nine. If any of you know of my obsession with Purely Elizabeth granola, that streusel was its clone. EXACTLY like it. Mind. Blown.
After enjoying the company of my dad on a Saturday night in the city, I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent it than dining at GT Fish & Oyster. With a comfortable atmosphere, the most hospitable staff and visually appealing (along with incredibly delicious) dishes, this is one restaurant I will be coming back to again and again. You can take my word for it!
GT Fish & Oyster is located at 51 N. Wells Street., open for brunch, lunch and dinner. You can find their hours of operation on their site here.
*This post was not sponsored, however my dessert was compensated for. All thoughts are my own. Thank you to GT Fish & Oyster for your wonderful hospitality.*