BLVD in West Loop takes modern approach to classics

CHICAGO (WLS) -- BLVD is a restaurant in Chicago's West Loop, tucked beneath the Green Line tracks, where the owners want to transport guests to the Hollywood of the 1950s.

However, a pair of new dishes from their spring menu can make diners think about future, rather than the past.

The chef has taken a pair of old classics, and completely reimagined them.

For as much glitz and glamour as BLVD exudes, via its throwback round booths and swanky chandeliers, a lot of the food it serves is influenced by another era.

"Definitely harkens back to Sunset Boulevard, 1950s Hollywood. Lots of art deco, chandeleries, gold accents, that sort of thing," said Chef Johnny Besch.

But Besch wasn't just going to serve a ho-hum shrimp cocktail as an appetizer.

"First we thought about the flavor profile. Horseradish and ketchup to make a cocktail sauce. We said let's separate those out, and make the horseradish element be a creamy texture, but still chilled, so we set that in gelatin. Then we said let's take the tomato product and make that a spicy syrup or gastrique," he said.

Then on top, a salad of baby kale and frisee with a black tea vinaigrette and some perfectly steamed shrimp, garnished with a dried lemon, as well as candied lemon zest. Then there is the 1950s side dish of peas and carrots. Boring. So Besch approached it in unique way.

"How many different ways can we prepare peas and how many different ways can we prepare carrots?" he said. "Made a puree, we charred some peas, we blanched some peas, we kept some peas raw, we used the pea shoots and tendrils. With the carrots we made a puree, we pickled some, we blanched and shocked other carrots. We charred some baby carrots, we shaved some carrots raw."

And by combining roasted and charred peas with pureed and pickled carrots, topping them with a homemade chimichurri sauce and a salad made from pea tendrils, the last bit of salty cotija cheese and a hit of Aleppo pepper gives the dish a lot more complexity than its original ancestor.

"Different textures, different flavor combinations but with two ingredients," said Besch.

Now you can get both of these modern interpretations of classic dishes as an appetizer or even a side dish, but if you like shrimp, be sure to share. I'm gonna keep this one all to myself.

EXTRA COURSE: BLVD elevates the classic cheesecake to a more modern presentation

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Extra Course: Cheesecake at BLVD

817 W. Lake St., Chicago
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