Fountainhead bar situated on the corner of Montrose and Damen has always been an excellent scotch and craft beer bar and has a reputation under the stewardship of Chef Sarah McDonnell of putting out some quality food, but every time I have walked by and looked up above the bar I have seen this massive roof top space lying idle and crying out for alfesco action. Now at last after much anticipation Fountainhead has been able to take advantage and open up that upper space to create a lovely outdoor roof patio.
I was lucky enough and honoured to get an invite to attend their soft launch of the rooftop terrace courtesy of the Gourmet Rambler (Tatiana ) Food Editor at @theBrideScoop and one of the first ‘twitter people’ I have actually met in person.It turned into a memorable evening of food and we got to sample pretty much the entirety of Chef Sarah’s menu for that night.
The first few plates were the salads, a duck salad, a shrimp salad, and a feta salad , which despite my general antipathy towards rabbit food I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact I think there needs to be a new name for salads as they can be so much more than just a few green leaves and a bit of tomato, as clearly demonstrated and proved by Chef Sarah.
In no particular order (well OK the order in which I downloaded the photo’s off my phone)
The Smoked Duck salad was visually appealing and it looked as good as it tasted. The Duck was juicy and had a light smoky flavour, the spinach salad on which it sat also contained some shaved fennel and some very red slices of cara cara orange, all lightly dressed with a pecan sherry vinaigrette. The orange made a nice contrast to the fennel as it was sweet and not as sharply acidic as normal everyday orange.
The Shrimp salad was one of my favourites plates, the shrimp appeared to be covered in flakes of chilli, which should have been a warning, however it was still a surprise to get a good kick of heat from the first mouthful, not too hot, but just hot enough to send me diving back in for another mouthful of cocktail to cool the tongue. The shrimp were nicely poached and then were chilled left sitting on top of a bed of rice noodles, the heat was coming from a citrus sambal dressing. To counter the heat there was a hint of mint and tossed through the bowl was also some thai basil, spring onions (scallions), some red pepper, and some thin slices of courgette (zuccinni). There was also a nice half of lime to squeeze over the bowl which added a nice freshness to the dish and also helped to contrast with the kick of heat from the sambal dressing.
The final salad on the menu was a Feta cheese salad, this came on a bed of cos lettuce (romaine) and had chickpeas (garbonzo beans), some cherry tomatoes, and a few half slices of olives mixed into it, there was also some watercress in there too. What made this salad a truly memorable feta salad was the quality of the cheese, it was really creamy and almost spreadable, it was still a bit crumbly and mixed into the salad with the cucumber vinaigrette dressing it became part of the dressing coating all the crunchy cos lettuce leaves providing a nice sweet salty crunchy bite.
I would order all three salads again, and that is a rare thing that I would say. If that wasn’t enough to start filling oneself up we were then treated to a stream of sandwiches, and by treat I do mean treat as they were all both excellently presented and visually appealling plates plus they all tasted as good as they looked (I know I said that about the salad too).
Again in no particular order.
My favourite of the four sandwiches was the Country Style Pork Rib Panini. It looked good but the real wow moment was the first bite, I mean how good can you make a pork rib taste? Well this good it was something else, I hesitate to say it, but the phrase ‘food orgasm’ drifted around the table. So what created that excellent flavour? The pork had been marinated in a soy-pomegranete mix and it was lightly smeared with a cherry mustard to give it a nice light sweetness to contrast and add a more savoury bite the sandwich also contained some sliced radish and some charred spring onion (scallions) all this enveloped in a toasted ciabatta roll.
The vegetarian option was a Pesto panini which came with one of the sides on offer a fingerling potato salad which in itself was excellent and I could have easily had that by itself, but I digress from the panini. This was pretty good, although it would have benefitted from the addition of some bacon, <insert missing the whole point of vegetarian here> – (well I did eat the salad so you have to give me this one). The panini had a soft layering of roasted peppers, portobella mushroom, some squash and housemade mozzarella which oozed out of the sliced sandwich. This was all smothered in a basil-hazelnut pesto which did elevate the sandwich above that needed for your average vegatarian sandwich <takes tongue out of cheek briefly>. The sandwich was inside a quinoa bread which was a nice interesting option, which I may get again somewere.
The third offering was a Salumi sandwich in a rustic ciabatta roll. On first inspection I feared the bread would be too hard for my English teeth, but that was just an illusion it was light and crunchy outside and a soft white airy bread inside. The filling was shaved genoa, hot soppressa, pistachio mortadello, talleggio, giardineria, and a mustard aioli. I did quite like the sandwich, but it was not my first choice. It came with a multigrain salad as a side, which I added into the sandwich and it made a nice addition.
The last, but by no means, least sandwich was a Roast Beef in an asiago sourdough bread roll. I really liked this one, very simple some really good pink slices of roast beef, some watercress and some homemade boursin. I could have eaten about three of these sandwiches, OK maybe just two as I would need some room for another one of the pork rib sandwiches as well.
OK well as if all those sandwiches and salads, together with the freely flowing cocktails and beer was not enough we were next availed of two curries to sample. A Green curry and a Red Paneng curry, both served on top of a bed of steamed quinoa.
The Green Curry was not too spicy, and was a little light and watery to my taste, but it was a nice curry for a hot summer day if there is such a thing? I mean they must be as the whole continent of Asia are munching down on curry and spicy dishes all the time and I can tell you from the months I spent working in India it is baking hot there. Mind you its like a nice hot cup of tea can be refreshing on a summer day too, so there is no logic, rhyme nor reason when it comes down to it… Back to the curry, apart from the light sauce it contained chicken, new potatoes, peas and some aubergine (eggplant). I really liked the steamed quinoa, it was a good lighter alternative to steamed rice.
Of the two curries I really liked the red version better, it was a nice sweet spicy tomato based sauce with peanuts, tofu, corgette (zuchinni) and thai basil. The tofu gave an interesting texture, it was almost like a curried chunky egg mayonaisse. You could have had either curry with chicken or tofu. To be honest chicken everytime for me, but I quite enjoyed the tofu option.
To sum up, a great selection of food, I understand that the menu will not be fixed, so you may not see everything I got to eat, but I would expect it all to be good. I can honestly say that I would order all these dishes again, although there would be a serious leaning towards the pork rib, and beef sandwiches, and the shrimp salad.
I expect that the patio will be mobbed once it is open every day so good luck getting a table up there and enjoy the beer and the food (irresponsibly if possible – its more fun that way)
Fountainhead is located at 1970 W. Montrose Ave, just a short walk from the Montrose Brown line, and is also serviced by the cross town CTA buses 50 and 78. Website is at http://fountainheadchicago.com/, you can also follow them on facebook and on twitter @thefountchicago