Editor's note:In March 2018 it was announced that the restaurant would close on April 28th 2018. It will not be missed.
Editor's note: in January 2017 former sous chef Nick Dostal took over as executive chef.
Sixteen is on the 16th floor of the Trump Hotel in central Chicago. It has a very high ceiling and a massive central chandelier. Tables are well spaced and the room is carpeted, with an airy feel to due to the good natural light from the floor to celling windows. The hotel is actually just by the river, though the water is not visible from the dining room. There is nonetheless a good view over the city skyline. A terrace outside the dining room has some tables available for drinks in good weather. The head chef since 2012 is Thomas Lents, who was not present at this service. He had previously worked at Thorntons in Dublin, at chef de cuisine at Quince in San Francisco and as chef de cuisine at Robuchon in Las Vegas.
At lunch there was a six course tasting menu at $78, or two courses at $44. At dinner the tasting menu is $190 for ten courses or four courses can be eaten for $130. The extensive wine list had labels such as Dr Wetshof Chardonnay 2013 at $65 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for $18, Clouds Rest 2010 Pinot Noir at $145 compared to a retail price of $43, and Arrietta Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 at $320 for a bottle that will set you back $125 in a shop.
An amuse-bouche appeared, delivered by a remarkably inept waitress who plonked it on the table, said "this is an amuse bouche" and then walked away. Since no description was offered, I can tell you that it was actually a cheese flan with a hint of smokiness, topped with tomato, basil and apple. This was pleasant enough, though unexciting (13/20). A trio of bread offerings comprised a rock-hard mini baguette, a bland but otherwise decent ciabatta and a tough pretzel (11/20 bread on average).
Risotto of guinea hen was much better, the rice having good texture, the chicken stock used fine, and there being some Parmesan adding richness, though the guinea hen flavour was subdued. The only issue with it was that it was quite salty, even to my taste (15/20). Also pleasant was a crab salad with endive, fennel, edamame and a citrus dressing. The shellfish was fine and the dressing was nicely balanced (15/20).
Dover sole for two people was visibly overcooked, filleted at the table and served with wilted greens, pine nuts and mash topped with a pine nut grenolboise (a sauce of brown butter, capers and parsley). After confirming that the fish was indeed badly overcooked (10/20 only because the other elements were OK) I sent it back, and was offered instead a rib eye beef dish. This came with charred brassicas, onions and maitake mushrooms. The small pieces of beef had good flavour, though some were rather fatty. The broccoli was nicely cooked but the mushrooms were, not to put too fine a point on it, burnt (13/20).
The same waitress that delivered the amuse bouche now brought some chocolates, forgetting that she had not offered us the dessert menu. A pistachio cake was fine, having good texture and served with a pleasant rhubarb compote, strawberry and ginger (15/20). This was much better than a baked chocolate custard with grainy texture, creme chantilly and a chewy set of dried raisins flavoured with rum (12/20 at best). Coffee was bitter and disappointing, pretty much in line with my overall impression of the meal by now.
Service was amateurish throughout, at a level well below what any customer could reasonably expect at even a simple restaurant, never mind one at this price point. The bill came to $68 (£43) per person with just tap water to drink given an adjustment to the bill for the fish problem. However if you had a normal three course experience and could find a modest bottle of wine to share then a typical cost per head would be about $95 plus service, so around £73 a head at lunch, and at dinner a typical price per had would be $205 (£130). This represents dismal value for money given the standard of food that we experienced, and the idea that this place deserves a Michelin star, never mind the two stars that it actually has, is absurd based on this meal. Given the shambolic service the only saving grace of this meal was the view.