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DISH: SAVOR Leviathan and Portsmith
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Saying ( or writing ) that imbibing and dining, respectively, at the dana hotel and spa's Leviathan and Portsmith ( 660 N. State St. )—both of which The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group developed—is "simply unique" isn't really enough to describe what these spots offer.

Leviathan ( ), located on the second floor, has items from the mind of mixologist Benjamin Schiller, who has said his attention-getting cocktails ( in terms of taste as well as glasses/cups/vessels ) were inspired by mythical creatures of the sea. ( The restaurant group is also responsible for the visually eye-widening concoctions in the rooftop spot Apogee, like the Mr. Nice Guy that's served in a bong. )

For example, take the drink called the Leviathan. It includes gin, North Shore aquavit, ginger syrup, rum, lime, angostura, mint and—wait for it—shaved bonito flakes, the latter ingredient reinforcing the whole nautical theme. Other drinks have names such as Davy Jones' Locker, Below Deck Sazarac and the Kraken ( which contains, among other things, squid-ink tuile, naturally ). However, if you're not feeling too adventurous, there are generous lists of wine, beer, whiskey and the like.

After dining, take the stairs down one floor to Portsmith ( ), which its website says is "named for the idea that seafood is common in most port towns and that a chef is a food 'smith,' or craftsman."

A recent media event allowed for some tastings of seafood items that exhibited a global fare. ( Dishes are divided into "Raw + Lightly Cooked," "Appetizers," "Bread Service," "Entrees" and "Middle of the Table" ( side plates ). )

As with Leviathan, visual presentation is key ( and flawless ). The uni dish was an enticing mix of lychee, candlenut and sea salt that allows diners to simply pop off the fruit's top; while Fancy Oyster—oyster with foie gras, yuzu flake daikon and green apple—came in a case that could've doubled as a jewelry box.

Fortunately, the dishes tasted as good as they looked. I especially appreciated the turbot with Meyer lemon ( an ingredient I haven't seen too often after it seemingly peaked a few years ago ). The fish was meaty ( yet tender ) without actually being too fishy. And the rumaki ( with scallops, pork belly, green papaya, lemongrass carrot puree and ginger confit ) was simply heavenly. The desserts are must-haves as well, with dishes that constantly surprise ( in terms of what's presented as well as the fact that things don't taste like they look ).

Now an experience like this doesn't come cheaply. Entrees run $29-$62 each ( the upper edge going to the grass-fed ribeye, one of the few non-seafood entrees ), and even rolls are $2 each. However, if you manage to save your money or have a special occasion to mark, this is the place to hit. ( Also, children are welcome, as there's a kids' menu. )

Here's hoping these wonderfully unique spots don't go underwater.

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