If you’re a fan of mussels, you should immediately book a reservation at Bittersweet in the West Washington Park neighborhood. The restaurant’s current menu includes a smoked mussel appetizer (pictured) with a broth like I’ve never tasted. When I asked chef-owner Olav Peterson about the savory, almost-soup-like concoction, he replied with satisfaction that it’s taken him years to realize that mussels’ best accompaniment is not white wine. Though a traditional pairing, the wine can turn bitter or astringent and overwhelm the delicate mollusks. Instead, Peterson says, “The best thing for mussels is stock and butter.” Hence a velvety, rich broth that’s worthy of taking a spoon to once you’ve finished with the mussels themselves.
The polenta fries complete Peterson’s play on the classic combination of moules frites. These crisps are made from strips of polenta that curl ever-so-slightly in the fryer. But instead of being dense as you might expect, the airy, buttery wisps shatter when you bite into them. Savor each one, rather than dredging the lengths into the broth. 500 Alameda Ave., 303-942-0320