The Lavin Family Pavilion, part of the Northwestern School of Medicine, is not where most people would look for fine dining, but the desk in the austere modern lobby confirms that, yes, WoodWind restaurant is here.
Eighteen floors up, and that austerity changes to warmth. Past the wood-clad hall lined with wine bottles is an open, gently lit dining room with a handsome bar, gleaming open kitchen and city views.
Don Young, last seen at Temporis restaurant, is the chef, seen here preparing one of his more whimsical appetizers. Here's the finished product, called the Bloomin' Maitake. This play on Outback's Bloomin' Onion consists of a roasted maitake mushroom, dressed with burnt-sesame caramel and flecked with bonito flakes. The flakes are so thin they seem to dance from the heat.
There's also a riff on buffalo wings, consisting of fried rice crackers dusted with buffalo-sauce powder, alongside some blue-cheese foam; and bao mac, inspired by the Big Mac, presenting foie gras nestled in steamed bao buns and dressed with a thousand-island type sauce. House made, of course.
More straightforward dishes include roasted carrots with Korean spices and yogurt; and grilled octopus, served with yuca tater tots and dots of aji amarillo, which add a gentle spice level.
Smoked and grilled sturgeon is a killer dish, a beautiful piece of fish topped with crisped shoestring fries; the dots on the plate are black garlic and crème fraiche, respectively; it's just a gorgeous presentation.
Desserts are theatrical, none more than the chocolate pot de crème, which arrives to the table under a smoke-filled glass dome. You get all that smoky aroma when the dome is removed, and some of it lingers in the pudding itself, which is topped with chocolate soil and a dollop of whipped cream.
I give WoodWind, 259 East Erie Street, on the 18th floor, two stars. Open for lunch and dinner, WoodWind is a quiet, elegant oasis in Streeterville, and definitely one worth seeking out.