Filini Bar and Restaurant’s Midsummer Grill Out
I was lucky enough to be invited to ask a friend to join me at Filini Bar and Restaurant for its grigliata di ferragosto. For those of you not proficient in Italian, that’s “midsummer grill out.”
The grigliata di ferragosto was an opportunity for Chef Christian Fantoni to feature his grilled menu items, many of which will appear through the summer as specials on Filini’s menu.
Filini is the bar and restaurant at the Radisson Aqua Blu hotel in the Aqua building, or more correctly, just Aqua. Only one name is necessary to know exactly to what one is referring – that skyscraper near Millennium Park that though not the tallest, stands out nonetheless because of its unique silhouette of irregularly undulating balconies that brings to mind, of course, water.
The lobby of the Radisson Aqua Blu is inviting with its multiple overstuffed couches, eye-catching – and lengthy – fireplace, and gilded “chain maille” wall. There’s even a small art gallery a few steps up from the lobby. Please see the accompanying photo gallery to see views of the cool lobby.
Just being invited to hang out on the Aqua Outdoor Terrace was a treat. It’s not a roof deck per se – most of the building’s floors tower beautifully above it – but it is in the open air and it does have beautiful views of Chicago and Aqua itself. It also has a fifth-mile perimeter track, a pool, a fire pit, various seating areas amongst well-maintained urban gardens, and a zen garden. Not one of those things on the boss’s desk, no, a full-sized, find-your-bliss zen garden.
But we were there to try the food. The menu for the evening included seven dishes, each of which had a major grilled component. First we tried Spiedini di Pollo, which is fancy for chicken on a stick. The chicken and the accompanying skewered vegetables were tasty.
Then we tried Involtini di Spada, or stuffed swordfish rolls. Small swordfish fillets were wrapped around a mixture of finely chopped, sweated vegetables and bread crumbs, secured with skewers, grilled, and served with a sun dried tomato sauce. I never knew I liked swordfish so much. This was my favorite dish thus far.
Tonno, seared tuna cubes over a cannellini bean salad, was next. The tuna was nicely rare inside and the beans were a lovely mild accompaniment. The Tonno was good, but the swordfish was still my favorite.
I reluctantly tasted the Salsiccia con Peperonata, sausage in pepper sauce. The peppers were very pretty – red, yellow, and green – but my number one most hated food of all time is green bell peppers and anything that comes near even the tiniest bit of green bell pepper tastes disgusting to me. What I tasted of the sausage was good, but I couldn’t get past the sauce. My dining companion thought the dish was a very nice rendition of a classic Italian restaurant dish, and happily cleaned our plate. The swordfish was still winning my palate’s taste competition.
The final savory dish we tried was Bistecca, thinly pounded steak with an arugula, corn, onion, and aged balsamic salad. Yum! The steak was tender and not at all chewy. The salad was fresh and bright tasting. New favorite! My dining companion and I were sharing all of our dishes, but I really and truly wanted a Bistecca all to myself. But we had dessert coming.
Two desserts, actually. There was Anguria, grilled watermelon with cantaloupe sorbet, sparkling wine, and mint foam; and Pesche, grilled peaches with vanilla gelato and raspberry coulis. The desserts were the night’s low point, which is not to say they were bad, because the non-fruit parts were quite tasty. They just had some issues.
The issues were attributable to things over which Chef Christian Fantoni had little control. The grill definitely wasn’t hot enough to very quickly sear either the watermelon or the peaches. That was due to the windy weather that threatened throughout the evening to deposit some rain on us. The peaches weren’t nearly ripe enough to be served in a sundae bowl with only a spoon; we resorted to a knife. Chef Fantoni told us that when he planned he’d hoped the peaches would have been further along.
Photos of all the food can be seen in the accompanying photo gallery.
After we ate we were invited to take a tour of the hotel. Each floor has a different Chicago neighborhood theme and mural by Steve Slaske so guests can’t get lost unless they’re really drunk. The rooms are quite nice. The building is LEED certified, which means it’s “green.” Everything that’s usually on paper in a hotel room – room service menu, phone numbers for various hotel departments, tourist information, etc. – is on the rooms’ televisions at the Radisson Aqua Blu.
And there’s those balconies. Each one is different but they all offer beautiful views of Chicago, two of which can be seen in the photo gallery.
If you live in Chicago or its environs Filini Bar and Restaurant is a great stop if you find yourself near Millennium Park with time to kill. If you want a staycation, or friend or family are in town the Radisson Aqua Blu is a nice hotel close to many things people want to see in Chicago.