Fulton’s on the River: A Restaurant Review
I rarely splurge on restaurant dinners in the “$$$” range, but when I do, all inhibitions fly out the window. Or in my case, right onto the Chicago River. I’ve driven past Fulton’s on the River multiple times on my commute to Downtown Chicago but never thought once about dining there. So I ecstatically accepted an invitation to try out their Butcher’s Trio, a special menu created by executive chef Kevin Schulz to showcase ingredients and flavors that aren’t part of Fultons’ traditional steak and fish menu.
To get the full Fulton experience, I ordered the following in a gluttonous fit of excitement:
Mac & Cheese with gorgonzola and applewood smoked bacon: Fultons’ version wasn’t oozing with thick creamy cheese, which I personally enjoyed. The sprinkling of scallions on top added a nice touch.
The Gilligan (jumbo shrimp, oysters, chilled mussels, clams): The cocktail sauce with horseradish, tangy mignonette, and tiny tobacco bottles were perfect condiments. Although everyone raves about oysters, I personally enjoyed the mussels, which were soft chewy bivalves of fantastic flavor.
Flight of 3 sides (whipped sweet potato, Chicago’s Largest Tater Tots, crispy polenta): The savory crispy tater tots made me smile with childlike exuberance, and the crispy polenta tasted like grown-up French fries.
Dry aged American Wagyu New York Strip with Au Poivre Sauce: I mean, what can I really say? 16 ounces of Holy Cow, topped with sweet salty Au Poivre, was Nirvana on a plate. The perfectly-rested steak was frustratingly tender, with a slight cheese-like aftertaste.
Key Lime Pie (traditional pie served with vanilla mousse): As a connoisseur of Southern desserts, I appreciated the simplicity of this pie. A crunchy base and lemony custardy interior finished perfectly with a whipped cream dollop and raspberry.
- Seared scallop with corn anglaise and milk braised greens with off-dry Gewürztraminer (Villa Wolf, Germany)
- The natural sweetness of the seared scallop married well with the sweet anglaise and greensoff, which tasted like creamed spinach.
- Pheasant ballontine with Robechon potatoes, truffle cream, and dried corn (chilled Rosé of Malbec (Crios, Mendoza, Argentina)
- The succulent pheasant tasted like a well-roasted rotisserie chicken, especially that crispy ring of skin wrapped around the thigh meat. The Robechon mashed potatoes (half potato, half-butter) also complemented the savory truffle cream and dried corn for one giant hit of umami.
- Braised pork belly with kimchee puree, purple cauliflower, and raw beets-Pinot Noir (Josephine DuBois, Burgundy, France)
- I was surprised by this Asian-inspired component of the trio. I didn’t quite understand the raw beets or cauliflower, but the braised pork belly paired nicely with the spicy kimchee puree.
Overall, the Butcher’s Trio was a special deviation from Fultons’ usual menu, highlighting Chef Schulz’s culinary talents beyond the rib-eyes and Berkshire pork chops. Although Chef Schulz’s favorite perfect trio of proteins would comprise of foie gras, unagi, and otoro (tuna belly), his death row meal is much less indulgent—#4 from McDonalds, no ketchup, Diet Coke. I asked Kevin how he got started cooking in the kitchen, and he replied: “My grandmother is first generation American, her parents and siblings were all from Germany. She learned how to cook from her mother and in turn, she taught me how to cook. There was always meat on the table, usually roasted. We would spend all day in the kitchen; everything was cooked low and slow and basted in fat. When I went to culinary school I knew most of the techniques, without really knowing they were techniques, for me it was just cooking. I’ve held on to all of the things my grandma taught me and still use them now.” Although Fulton’s on the River is a traditional seafood and steakhouse, I’d love to see more Schulz incorporate more of his Eastern European background into the menu.
Just as the lavish interior and lakeside view exudes extravagance, the restaurant doesn’t shortchange on its ingredients and products. Before I settled on the dry-aged steak, my lovely server Julio whipped out a gigantic tray of meat, highlighting all the different cuts. In fact, all of Fulton’s on the River meat is sourced from Meats By Linz, an company that procures high quality, local animals. Fred Linz and John Majchrowicz, the guys behind Meats By Linz, have worked with Chef Schulz to create a remarkable meat program: beef from south east Wisconsin, pork from Iowa, and Amish chicken from Ohio. So if you ever get a chance to try the Butcher’s Trio, rest assured that it will not only taste phenomenal, it’s also food with a conscience.
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FYI, The Butcher’s Trio will continue into October.