In Chicago, Master Sommelier Alpana Singh is a household name: For the past decade, she hosted Check, Please! the popular restaurant review show on local PBS station WTTW.
But when Singh announced her Check, Please! retirement in January, it was hardly a surprise: The news came on the heels of the opening of her hotly anticipated restaurant, The Boarding House, the star of which is Singh’s nearly 500-bottle wine list.
Located in the heart of the River North gallery district, the 7,300-square-foot restaurant rests in a gorgeously rehabbed 1872 building that was originally a literal boarding house. It spans an enticing four levels, from the lofty, exposed-beams and oversized windows of the top floor’s main dining room, down to the dark, cozy Cellar lounge, all low-lighting and leather booths (Don’t worry, there’s an elevator — two, actually, if you include the special wine lift.) Not surprisingly, aesthetic details reflect the proprietress’ love of vino. The ground-floor bar is lit by a stunning chandelier made from nearly 9,000 individual wine glasses, while the dining room’s ceiling installation is a lovely green sculpture of 4,000 empty bottles.
In true homage to Singh’s résumé (she was the youngest woman to achieve the rank of Master Sommelier when she first attained the title in 2003), chef Christian Gosselin designed The Boarding House’s menu to complement the extensive wine list, and pairings are suggested on the menu— for example a 2010 Domaine Gramenon for the Chicken Three Ways for Two dish. Items such as chicken liver mousse and grass-fed beef tartare are reminiscent of wine-bar fare, but the entrees are hearty, ranging from a classic pan-seared Scottish salmon to a red wine–braised short rib served with leek fondue.
Speaking of red wine, The Boarding House offers hundreds of them organized by grape, then region. The indecisive can simply follow Singh’s lead via a rotating list of “Top Wines of the Moment,” which includes a broad range of price-points for favorite reds, whites and bubbly.
Photos Courtesy of The Boarding House