There’s a Last Time for Everything

I had two good reasons for going back to a restaurant that has never once been worth the money:

  1. I had a Groupon (I know, stupid to buy one for a restaurant you know you don’t like… but after reading reason number two, it will make sense)
  2. I had tickets to Shakespeare Theatre

Yes, that’s right, folks. I went back to Riva Restaurant (oops, now called Riva Crabhouse) at Navy Pier because there was no other option. Unfortunately for Navy Pier and people who want to grab dinner before a show, this is the only “better” restaurant on site. Besides, the food court, you have a choice of Billy Goat, Bubba Gump, and Harry Caray’s. And, yes, we could go to Bubba Gump or Harry Caray’s, but that is a long haul from parking to the restaurant back to the theatre. I mean, a really long haul down the pier.

So, off to Riva we went.

What We Ate

Because of the tight timeframe for a weeknight show, we skipped the apps and went straight for the main course. I had a truly unremarkable grouper filet. It came with fingerling potatoes (a bit undercooked), wild mushrooms (um, two… so I guess I’m OK with the plural), roasted leeks, and sweet corn essence. Essence was an apt word because all I saw was a glop of yellow under my leeks. I tasted nothing of this essence. It was like an ephemeral waft of corn—too slight and then gone. Oh, and the grouper was not seasoned. No salt, no pepper, nada. The blandest of white fish made blander by lack of any sort of flavor.

Paul had a trio of small plates. The presentation was lovely—all three plates came out on one platter, elegantly arranged. He had three artichoke heart beignets, two duck confit, and three raw ahi tuna slices. Sounds delightful, but again, the menu description was better than the reality. The beignets were a disappointment (and looked rather like a standard hush puppy). Paul said the duck was only OK. So, the tuna was his favorite. It’s pretty hard to screw up raw tuna. Cut the sushi grade fish, and put it on the plate.

For dessert, I had lemon sorbet. I paid $8 for that frozen lemon with the sorbet smooshed inside that we’ve all seen at Italian restaurants everywhere. I think they buy it in bags and then crack open as needed. Paul had the cheesecake—which was a tournedo-like bit of dessert sitting on the edge of a square plate. (And, by the way, I know that tournedo is a slice of beef, but I’m blanking on the actual term I want to use. This was a close as I could come.)

What We Drank

I had a glass of Malbec and Paul had something in white. I like that they pour a half glass and bring out the rest in a small carafe. That was nice.

So, why should you go to Riva? You’re at Navy Pier for something else and don’t have enough time to leave, but you don’t want to eat at a bar or McDonald’s. Or, you’re a tourist and don’t know any better. It’s not bad food, mind you. It’s just over-priced and not inspired.

And, one note that I want to share with the kitchen staff: Putting flowers on top of the food does not make it taste any better. OK, I’m done, I swear.

Location: Navy Pier, about three-fourths of the way down near orange door 5 of the parking garage.


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