Phil Vettel reviews Brass Heart

CHICAGO -- Brass Heart opened in August in Uptown with sky-high ambitions and prices to match. Dinner for two is going to set you back around three hundred dollars without wine.

Matt Kerney is the chef and partner. His resume includes years as chef of the well-regarded Longman & Eagle, in Logan Square. But conceptually, he acknowledges, Brass Heart represents a higher level of dining.

Start with the dining room, which holds just 20 seats, guaranteeing an intimate evening. A muted color palette forms a backdrop for artistic touches such as framed rock ‘n roll photography, and a series of brass-heart renderings by the front door and the hallway.

Kerney’s whimsical approach to food is evident immediately. Your first taste will be a riff on caviar and blini, though in place of a pancake, there will be a scoop of potato-chip ice cream, a slightly sweet counterpart to the caviar’s brininess.  Follow-up courses might include a pristine scallop with black truffle and yuzu butter sauce.

And there will always be a rice-and-beans course. Naturally, this is no ordinary combo. The idea is to elevate simple ingredients to the level of fine-dining. The current version includes creamy judion beans with Spanish saffron bomba rice, along with coins of garlicky chorizo sausage and paprika gravy. It’s fascinating.

Another course Kerney repeats often is the aged wagyu beef, with butter-poached mushrooms and an airy pommes soufflé. On the plate, this doesn’t look like a lot of beef, but the meat is so rich, you’ll feel more than full.

There are several sweets to finish the 9- or 12-course dinner, including cubes of ginger-soaked, white-chocolate pound cake along with bananas-Foster ice cream, macadamia puree and dots of roasted pineapple curd.

I give Brass Heart, 4662 North Broadway, three stars. Brass Heart occupies a price level that puts it in competition with Chicago’s best, though Brass Heart isn’t quite that expensive. Still, it’s trying to run with the big dogs, and every time I visit, it seems to be catching up.

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