"How often does a brand new restaurant begin at this level?," Chicago magazine critic Jeff Ruby mused when asked about his four-star review of Oriole. "It's so rare. I really believe the place is that special."
Oriole, a fine-dining venture between two couples —including Noah Sandoval (Senza)— opened in March. Ruby doesn't normally rate restaurants with stars, but he made a special exception with Oriole. His experience had him getting lost in the tasting menu's "hypnotizing procession of crescendos and curveballs."
The service and drinks impressed, but even the sourdough bread course was "remarkable." Through the 15 courses, the menu offers "no letup," as the kitchen melds flavors that shouldn't belong. A Thai-influenced chilled Alaska king crab dish comes with Cara Cara oranges in a milky Vidalia onion soup: "The peculiar combination challenges expectations, and only a chef with highly honed taste buds can pull it off."
Genie Kwon's desserts also star, as Ruby writes about her chicory custard with Tahitian vanilla, milk ice cream, and whiskey-orange foam, inspired by Kwon's time in New Orleans: "It beats anything I've ever eaten there."
Ruby worries that Chicago diners may struggle to find Oriole, but they should try, because he believes the two-month-old restaurant belongs an impressive list of restaurants after immediately excelling after opening.
"If modern Chicago restaurants had their own Mt. Rushmore —a monument to the greats that tower over the scene— it would currently be Alinea, Grace, Schwa, Tru, and Sixteen," Ruby wrote to Eater Chicago. "They're going to have to carve out some room for Oriole on the mountain."