Chicago is a city about food. New restaurants seem to pop up every day in some part of the city, and still more seem to disappear suddenly. Only a very few can boast of great longevity, and among those one of the best is MK Restaurant. Chef Michael Kornick and his wife Lisa Koch Kornick opened the restaurant in 1998 and it continues to excel at both food and service. Tucked away on a quiet block of Franklin Street just north of Chicago Avenue (868 North Franklin), MK doesn’t fall on the average tourist’s walking tour of the city, nor does it sit on a block that has any sort of consistent foot traffic. Clearly, it is a “destination” restaurant but equally clearly it has prospered as such.
I was recently invited as a guest of the restaurant to stop by and experience what it’s like to be a single diner in this beautiful, fine dining location. As a single diner, one of my favorite options at a fine dining restaurant is to sample a “chef’s tasting” menu if one is offered. Sometimes, I actually request one even if it’s not listed and restaurants are surprisingly open to that. At MK, I ended up with a hybrid of those two things. At the start of my meal, Chef Elliot came out to meet me and asked me a few questions about my favorite foods. As a result, one of the courses I sampled was not an item on the menu, but was a perfect combination of several of my favorite things: fiddlehead ferns, duck, and seared fois gras. Another standout course was a serving of soft-shell crabs. I used to live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so I am a hard sell on soft-shell crabs (no pun intended) – these were some of the best I have ever tasted!
I would go into more detail about what I ate, but their tasting menu is highly seasonal and they have moved on to a new menu now. What is important to note, however, is that the changes are driven by what is fresh, seasonal, and exceptional. Their current tasting menu (as of July 2014) is called “A Chef & The Sea” and focuses on highly inventive fresh seafood preparations.
With any fine dining experience, at least for me, one of the most important things is the beverage pairing. AT MK they are lucky to have an excellent sommelier, Paul Finkelmeyer. His wine pairings for my meal were spot-on and truly did what fine pairing are meant to do – they complemented the food while also getting complemented right back. Every bite was different and complex when paired with a sip of wine, and it was a delightful experience.
Many fine dining restaurants have served me excellent meals, but I have left with a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) due to one (or both) of two issues. First – overly ornate decor that distracts from the experience. Second – pretentious service that makes you feel as though you are somehow wasting the time of the staff with your visit. I am sure anyone who eats our frequently has experienced either or both of these (and quite likely at any one of a number of snooty Chicago-area spots – no names mentioned here). Not so with MK!
The decor is elegant yet understated. As a former florist, I was hugely impressed with the sprays of deep burgundy-colored rubrum lilies, both for the striking color and the lovely aroma. The artwork is superb but never obtrusive and everything has a clean, sleek, contemporary feel while managing to also feel warm and inviting. If you’re interested in such things, the prints in the dining room are by Richard Serra, restroom fixtures by Hydrology, with woodwork and cabinets by Nuhaus.
As for service, of course I received excellent attention as a guest of the restaurant. Even so, I observed the service going on all around me and I can tell you that this restaurant does it right. All of the staff members were warm, polite, attentive, yet never pushy. It was one of those magical dining experiences where they seemed to read my mind and arrive with whatever I needed just before I asked.
As a single diner, for a special occasion or just to treat yourself to a wonderfully pampering experience, I definitely recommend MK. The restaurant is located at 868 N. Franklin Chicago, IL 60610. You can check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or get more information on Facebook. Their phone is 312-482-9179 and their Fax is 312 482 9171. MK is open nightly at 5:30 p.m.
Table For One, Please