Monday, May 28, 2007

Pretty Plates in Chicago - Tru

(I preface this review with my pics were taken by a camera phone, as I didn't want to be the weirdo in the fancy restaurant taking out a digital camera. Apparently I was the only one who felt this way, as tables around me were heavy with the flash and cameras)
After 3 trips to Chicago in the past month I finally landed early enough to make it to dinner at Tru. I've had to cancel a couple reservations there due to flight delays, so this time I opted to not make the reservation ahead of time. Which landed me an 8:45 seating. This is not something I was concerned about in the least as I was dying to try some of Rick and Gale's good cooking.
I can't really use any words that will justify how good this meal was. But I'll try.
There was some hesitation about going to dinner at a place like Tru alone. I
don't particularly love eating in restaurants alone, and tend to hurry through my meals. But I am a firm believer in that good food and great restaurants should not be saved for special occassions. One should indulge and eat good food when they can regardless of they why. The front of the house staff was very friendly and didn't give me the "oh sad you eating all alone face". The table was one of the banquettes in the middle of the restaurant, set for one with the additional chair removed. This gave me a good view of one half of the restaurant, allowing me to take in the art and the height of the place. And strangely, looking out at all those tables of groups out for a special dinner wasn't as awkward as I expected. In fact, I didn't read the book I had brought.
The space is beautiful in a very cool, open large way. Everything is black and white (even the napkins), allowing you to focus on the food and the art. The curtains reaching up to the ceiling, showcasing the height of the room. I spent a lot of time watching the staff, and how they seemed to just glide through the room, serving the food, taking the orders, clearing the plates, it was very beautiful. There was something very graceful and unintrusive about the way they moved.

The initial amuse bouche was served on a silver spoon that had a gorgeous steep curve to it, thus allowing it to stand by itself on the plate. It was a small ball of buffalo mozzerella with a green olive mousse and a shaving of black olive sugar on top. It was a complete explosion in my mouth. Light, airy, and just the right balance of savory from the olive mousse. It took me by surprise.

The wine list was an insane 50+ pages long. One page of wines by the glass, and some very impressive bottles on the list. I opted for a Gewürztraminer that had a great bouquet, but didn't bowl me over with the taste.
The second amuse bouche was a spring consumme gelee. Served in a lovely teacup and saucer, you did need a spoon to eat it with. The cup handle was shaped like a gold wing.

The consumme was bibb lettuce and spring vegetables, best I could tell there were cucumbers and zucchini in there, a gelee base added a substantial base to the light refreshing flavor and there was a dot of creme fraiche to top it off.
I opted for the 3 course dinner, since it was late. My appetizer choice was Grilled Diver Sea Scallops, Red Pepper Essence, Chorizo, Avocado Dumplings.

There was some avocado foam going on in this dish, which had actual flavor. I never expect foams to taste like anything. The avocado dumplings were rolled in japanese rice puffs and were dense but a good complement to the perfectly grilled scallops. The broth was a light chorizo lobster bisque with tapioca balls to add some body to it. On the corner of the bowl was a chiffonade of jalepeno for those (like me) who like a little heat with thier meal. I actually used very little of the jalepeno, for it was a bit too strong and took away from the purity of the dish.

My main course was the Butter-Poached Maine Lobster, White Asparagus, Bisque, Orange, Almond.

As soon as the dish was set in front of me I was overcome with the aroma of the orange. The plate has orange essence painted around the rim, and it definately plays a role in what you taste. Basically, it made me want to lick my plate. Not appropriate in a place such as this. The lobster was poached in an orange butter, so with every bite you got a hint of the orange and a lot of the moistness and goodness of the butter (with none of the greasy butter taste and feel you get when you drown the lobster in butter!). I live in the land of lobsters and this has to be the best lobster I've had. There was a tarragon lobster bisque on the side for me to scoop up with the lobster, and the tarragon added a nice touch of clean herby feeling to the dish. The white asparagus were hidden under their foam (clearly, the kitchen loves that toy) and creamy goodness, but I found and ate them all. I do like the white asparagus, they are milder and perfect for a dish such as this.
Here's my weak point, I am full and they ask if I am interested in a cheese course. My mind says, you still have dessert to go, you don't really need to add a fourth course, and yes you can have cheese instead of the dessert, but really you can't deny yourself half the reason you came which is Gale's desserts. So I succumb to the extremely attractive waiter and ask to see the cheese tray.

Oh the choices, from France to Wisconsin to Colorado! I wanted to try them all, but was limited to 3. In the end 3 became 4. The only other place I've been to with such an impressive cheese tray is L'Espalier where I had discovered my previous 2 favorite cheeses. They were toppled by two that I had this night. My two new favorite cheeses now are Regal de Bourgogne aux Moutarde which despite being covered in mustard seeds, isn't overwhelmed by them. And the Cabreton, which was softer and more flavorful that I expected. The two cheeses that flanked either end of my plate were the sheeps milk Perail and the nutty Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Wisconsin. Both equally delicious. I savored the cheeses as long as I could, with a huge smile on my face. Then I remembered there was still dessert to be had and boxed the rest up.
The sides were figs, apricot, a balsamic chutney (which while the waiter was forming into the perfect shape with 2 spoons, I told him he didn't have to bother "Ma'am, we are a four star restaurant" He was so cute I wanted to take him home. Seriously) and a quince paste, that I just ate as is because I love quince that much.
Before the dessert was a red currant mint lemonade as a palate cleanser. A bit too sweet for me, I only drank half. The color doesn't come through in the photographs, but believe me, it was the most attractive red I've seen in something that didn't contain hibiscus.
And finally dessert, as I was pretty full I opted for one of the lighter desserts. The Vanilla Cream with contained Lemon Chiffon, Vanilla Pot de Crème, Lemon Curd Ice Cream, Citrus Supremes.

The lemon curd ice cream was my favorite part of the dessert. It was creamy without being heavy, full of flavor, and just the right size. It also had some caramel rice krispies with it, so I got some of that snap, crackle, pop goodness. The pot de creme sat on a bed of light spongey lemon chiffon cake, and was enrobed in what was possibly the tastiest shell I've ever had.
Lest you think that was the end of dessert, oh no. There was still the lollipop and mini cake/cookie cart. Since I had not had any chocolate in my dessert, I skipped the spearmint lollipop that looked really good and opted for the chocolate crispy I can't even remember what else was in it lollipop. It was SO good. I also got a chambord chocolate mini cake thing, That was delicious, and thank goodness only a biteful! Are we done yet? Because I am mighty full. Oh no, wait, there is still the truffle cart. Oh handsome waiter, you are killing me with your good looks and tasty food things you bring my way. I opted for the dark chocolate green olive truffle and the milk chocolate caramel truffle.

Now, you may say to me, Razzle, why a chocolate olive truffle? I reply that I am a woman of adventure and am not afraid of strange flavors! While it was not a bad combination, it was certainly interesting. Had I not known that it had been olive, I would have spent hours trying to figure out what that combination was. The caramel truffle was soooo very good. But really, can one go wrong with caramel and chocolate? Not in my book.
3 1/2 hours later, and about 10 pounds heavier, I strolled back to the hotel and fell into bed dreaming of master chefs cooking up wonderful foods for me to eat.

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