“Well begun is half done.” Aristotle’s shadow rested over my shoulders as I inhaled the ambiance of a dim lit, golden hued Michelin Star staple tucked in Chicago. Having inhaled a plethora of dishes that were art on a plate, the clock struck a few hours into the night as the second series of the 12 course meal tiptoed out.
Almost like a theme for moonlit night, the next flat black plate was like a dark sky holding a literal work of art. The freshly shaved zucchini was a showstopper, surrounded by fresh pineapple (my favorite of fruits), thawed frozen pineapple, baby squash and chamomile. The gelatinous frozen pineapple texture was mildly off-putting, but more than made up for with the fresh snap of the zucchini, the compote-like consistency of the herb and fruit medley and the overall sweet and citrus flavors that danced in my mouth.
8. Vegetable Soup
Almost like a throwback to earlier dishes of the tasting menu, the next boomerang-like bowl comprised of a soup, arriving rather intermediately in a meal, but nonetheless opulent in both visual appeal and distinguished tastes. Zucchini bread and chanterelle mushrooms floated merrily in a bright green asparagus soup. The pineapple constituents of the former course were still omni-present, and imparted a sweeter note of flavor that was balanced by the fibrous bitterness of the liquid, which I loved.
9. Australian Winter Truffle
The trio of words Australian and winter and truffle seemed like a juxtaposed oxymoron, at least by my traveling experiences, but made for a sumptuous and rich dish. Homemade raviolo was topped with shaved truffle and pecorino cheese, with a side of luscious ricotta, absinthe and chive blossom. The duo of cheeses paired together like dreams – salty and sweet, rigid and creamy, yellow and white… the pairings were endless. Like a satisfying Italian staple, the dish was a dense bite of what could be a sleep inducing entree in a larger portion. The truffles added the right note of elegance, imparting an aroma from miles, and adding a finer level of texture.
Akin to art on a plate, or rather a bowl, the dragonfruit pre-dessert arrived in a half slice of this characterful (albeit flavorless) fruit. Compressed herb dragonfruit was blended with a coriander financier with blackberry, dragonfruit, lemongrass and sweet cicely. A light textured and sensitively flavored dish, this one required meticulous attention to detail to taste and unveil. I tasted the semi-sweet dragonfruit, much after the savory and strong coriander notes made it down my palette. With visible sesame-like seeds of the illustrious fruit in question, I found but a faint taste of lemongrass, and an overall pudding like texture that left me in awe of the art, and inquisitive about the tastes.
And things were coming into a full cycle, with the return of the sexually maligned banana. However, with Hawaiian seaweed, finger lime and lime basic, I was once again amused by how much I liked my least favorite fruit of my childhood days. The plating itself was artistic, with the banana taking a second pedestal next to the sour lime meringue and dollops of seaweed, which added a peculiarly deep saltiness over a sweeter dish. While by no means an indulgent dessert, it was a fruity and palette-cleansing one, which washed away the rich memories of buttery main courses.
Ending with a literal bouquet of sorts was the gastronomically proportioned cherry and chocolate combination, one that I often do not choose if given an option between fruits and nuts, but has grown on me off late. Accompanied by coconut and Nepitella, the alluring three dimensional plate was a vision of art. With coconut tapioca and powder as a creamy deconstructed combination as a base, the sour cherry sugar matched beautifully with the dark chocolate and hint of cacao powder. Once again, not overly indulgent, it was the right balance of sweet and bittersweet that wrapped up an already entree-heavy meal. I had hoped for a pie-face dessert, but was nonetheless thrilled with my experience.
With a tour of the kitchen, I ended my meal with a rustic cappuccino that came with its own duo of cutesy candies. After chewing through a homemade salt water toffee and a tres leches filled white chocolate truffle, I had many a conversation with the servers and chefs, leaving both my mouth and mind with a sweet memory of a radiant meal.
Grace truly has more effect than beauty. Or for that matter, taste. Well said, and well fed, Chicago.