Tru: Chicago, Illinois
Experience Date: Friday, 15 November 2013, 8:00 PM
Tru has been ranked as a one (out of three) Michelin star restaurant for at least the past several years. When looking for decent gourmet eats, trying to find out where your Michelin star restaurants are is always an excellent place to start. Here’s the 2014 Michelin list for Chicago.
I’m joining in on Beth’s Weekend Cooking fun with this post!
Last night my husband and I decided to check out Tru. We were not disappointed. Maybe it’s been too long since we’ve taken the time to seek out a truly exceptional restaurant, our previous adopted city, St. Louis, didn’t offer much in the way of amazing restaurant experiences.
Anyway. The service was impeccable. Sometimes a little coordinated serving and pouring can go a long way to make the evening memorable, after all part of what you’re paying for at a restaurant like Tru is not just the food but the overall experience. The head waiter was knowledgable and friendly, we even discussed the past foie gras ban in Chicago and experiences he had with other restaurants and patrons. He was even friendly enough that after all the wine pairings were poured I had the nerve to ask him what the career path was to become a head waiter at an exceptional restaurant. (It turns out for him, it was networking.)
The atmosphere was elegant and even on a Friday night there were enough empty tables, or the tables were spread out strategically enough, to make the experience intimate. When we walked in through the front doors that are shrouded by heavy black curtains the carpet absorbed so much sound from the dining room it was almost a shock to come in off the road. This was a good thing. When I speak with people about some of my most memorable gourmet stories the tale of The French Room in Dallas usually comes up with the wonderful food but the terrible atmosphere because the whole place is marble, so it sounds like you’re in a high school cafeteria. I digress, the point is that the muted atmosphere inside of Tru was divine.
The dining room itself is tastefully decorated and fairly minimalist. The two(?) story windows are covered by sheer white curtains with the corners covered by black curtains. The table setting was a simple glass plate with the Tru emblem etched on the underside. I was particularly tickled with the waiter that brought by four napkins, two black and two white allowing me to select my color. It sounds silly, but I’d never experienced that before.
My husband and I decided on the abbreviated ‘Tru – experience’ which is seven courses instead of 11. I’m sure that they had an impressive wine list, but I usually prefer to get the wine pairings, which is what we did. Along with the seven courses we added a selection of 5 cheeses before the dessert course, but I’ll get to the cheese tray.
So the amuse-bouche was a tiny pastry with a touch of cheese on the inside, it was bland but perhaps this was intentional to clear the way for an amazing beginning.
#1: Pear + Fennel | Sorrel + Buttermilk | Foie Gras + Honeycrisp Apple
Wine Pairing: margin demi-sec champagne 1st cru nv
The first course consisted of three little bites. There was the pear and fennel ‘soup to sip’, sorrel ‘snow’ with a buttermilk gellee underneath it, and foie gras that was covered with a sweet apple froth.
I want to start with the sorrel snow. Even though it was described as snow I was surprised when it was cold because the sorrel looked like a lovely green moss, it was even garnished with tiny flowers. The taste reminded me of my terrible excursion into the green smoothie fad — if I had known what I was doing with the green smoothies. I found the floral tones to be a little overpowering for my taste, but overall enjoyed it.
The cold pear and fennel soup was a little bland as well, but still enjoyable. The little sesame stick garnish that was served with it added the texture and flavor needed to make it complete in addition to being a beautiful garnish.
The star of this course was the foie gras. Full disclosure: I love foie gras. But the apple froth on top with the sweetness of the honey made the pate underneath it taste more savory.
I found the demi-sec champagne to be a nice contrast because it was a little sweeter than the traditional brut-style champagne. This sweetness also highlighted the savory of the foie gras quite nicely.
#2: Light Sunchoke, Trout Roe, Chive
Wine Paring: Arietta on the White Keys, California 2011
This wins the prettiest dish of the night. The pureed sunchoke was served in a small bowl with a large rim, the chive was liquified and formed the outermost ring of the bowl the sunchoke puree was the color of a light cream, in the center was the trout roe, beautiful salmon pink bubbles.
Served alongside was tall silver vase filled with black and white sesame seeds with roasted artichoke ‘chips’ standing up out of the vase like flames. These chips added an additional layer of texture on top of the delightful bubble bursting of the roe on my tongue. I should have taken a picture of this one, but I really hate being ‘that guy’ in a nice place.
The wine was the disappointment here. I found the Arietta to be too acidic in general, I often drink wines that I normally wouldn’t and when paired with the food they’re fine, this one wasn’t redeemed by the food.
#3: Matsutake Mushroom Two Ways, Rosemary Roasted Veal Sweetbread, Ponzu
Wine Pairing: Sicily Etna i Custodi Rosso 2007
I think I always willfully forget what sweetbreads are. The matsutake mushroom grilled on top of the sweetbreads made for a great contrast of flavor and texture. There was something smoky that I tasted in this dish, and I liked it.
The wine came from the side of a volcano in Sicily, this type of soil made the wine different than a lot of the reds that I usually drink. It was bold without being overpowering the subtlety of the sweetbreads and mushrooms were brought out.
#4: Eastern Skate Wing, Apple + Celery, Black Truffle
Wine Pairing: Vouvray le Haut-Lieu Huet 2011
Fish course! The skate was prepared perfectly and the black truffle shavings on top added just enough flavor to make the whole dish pop. It fell apart on my fork and then melted in my mouth. The apple and celery added just enough sweetness to be offset by the dryness of the wine.
#5: Lamb Loin draped in Black Trumpet, Young Beets
Wine Pairing: Lalande-de-Pomerol Chateau Belles-Graves 2009
This was another course that was beautiful to look at. The lamb was done at a perfect rare-medium-rare it was topped with the black trumpet mushrooms and garnished with what looked like a nice little peppermint candy, it looked more like a radish than a beet but didn’t taste like much of anything so I can’t be sure. Also, this was served on a log, there was glass over the top of the wood, but there was bark and everything. Great presentation.
About beets. I don’t like them but I am always amazed at what can be done with them in the hands of a master chef. The sweetness of the beets offset the earthiness of the mushrooms and the lamb.
Artisanal Cheese Selection
Wine Pairing: J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider
I love when gourmet places sometimes replace a wine pairing with a beer or cider, it’s often refreshing. This was the case with our cheese plate.
The selection of cheese was pretty wide, I’m going to estimate that they had about 15 – 18 cheeses to select from. The majority of the cheeses were cows-milk, but there were maybe 5 goat milk cheeses and one sheep’s milk cheese.
I tend to prefer stinkier, softer, cheeses with a lot of strong flavor. There were no shortages of that! It didn’t bother me, but there did seem to be no harder cheeses, also notably absent was any gouda.
#6: Passionate Marshmallow
The pre-dessert plate. This was also served on a log, with a stick. The intention was obviously to bring out a feeing of fall weather and camping, the marshmallow was lightly toasted on the outside and inside was the magic, it was a passion-fruit sorbet. Delectable. I wish I could have had ten more of these.
#7: Parsnip + Honey, Fig, Port Wine
Wine Pairing: Tenuta Capofaro Malvasia Salina 2010
Well… I liked the port that was served. This was another dish that had lovely presentation. The parsnip and honey ice-cream was drizzled over with a lovely red port sauce garnished with pretty purple figs on the side.
That being said, I did not like the ice-cream. Not here not there not anywhere. I think again it was too much floral and a ‘green’ taste. The parsnip far overpowered the honey. It was a sad ending to an otherwise nearly flawless meal.
Tru was a fantastic dining experience. I liked the fact that there was an option for an abbreviated seven course meal, or more accurately my husband and credit card were happy there was the option for the abbreviated meal. The cost was $115 for the meal, plus $85 for the wine pairing, the artisanal cheese were an additional $30. I would highly recommend this abbreviated option for those who don’t want to fork over the $158 for the entire Tru Experience (plus $125 for the wine pairing). Depending on your proclivity for cheeses you may want to skip the cheese plate, or there was also an option just to get three cheeses.
Definitely pencil this restaurant into your visit to Chicago. It should go without saying, but this is not a kid friendly restaurant, that is unless you’re Michael Jordan. 🙂
I have reservations for my sister and I at Alinea next Sunday, so keep an eye out for that review.
Cheers and Happy Eating!
Have you had an exceptional meal somewhere lately? Tell me about it!