Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tru, Chicago IL

Getting out of Trotter's a bit later than expected I said goodbye to my pal and hopped into the waiting car on Armitage. I quickly flipped open my cellphone and placed a call...we were going to be late. "Not a problem" said the voice on the other end, "we'll see you soon." ...and what did you do after the grand tasting and an extra dessert at Charlie Trotter's, sir? I went to TRU with the 3 most important people in my life for the dessert tasting menu - that is what I did.

Arriving at TRU a short man in a suit took our car while another held open the door - "You made it, please have a seat in the lounge while we prepare your table" said the hostess. 5 minutes passed and another man appeared to escort us to our table in the main dining room; chairs were pulled out for the ladies and purse-stools impressed my mother and sister while the synchronized pouring of water caused me to chuckle. Napkins - white or black, your choice - were handed out with tongs - menus too were passed out in-synch. Call it contrived, call it unnecessary - I call it an unsurpassed and impressive level of service...especially since this level continued throughout the entire 2 hour experience. Orders were placed - 4 dessert tastings, 3 coffees - and we were off.

Less than 10 minutes (and a cup of bold Intelligentsia poured from a truly ornate pitcher) passed before we were brought our first item - the bread basket. A bread basket, really? Of course, this is a tasting menu! In the bread basket were slices of cinnamon almond brioche and dark chocolate madelines - both stunning representations with rich flavors yet a subtle simplicity that went well with the coffee.

Following the breads we were informed that our first course, the fruit course, would be coming soon and we were provided a palate cleanser which was prepared tableside - Key Lime Soda with Mint and Melon. Slightly tart yet generally smooth the thin and slightly carbonated mix in a small glass provided a very unique sensation and did its job quite adequately.

For our fist true (no pun intended) course, two servings of two different dessert were brought and served (again simultaneously) to opposing diners - perfect for sharing. Dessert one - 'Greek Yogurt ' with Mint, Honey, Grapes, Raisins, Frozen Mint Julep was absolutely sublime and consisted of a sweetened Yogurt Pana Cotta with a core of organic clover honey, a chip of smooth and creamy mint candy, fresh and delicious golden and red grapes and raisins, and a heavenly mint julep icecream. Each item was spectacular on its own, but when consumed together the effect was completely different and the sum was certainly greater than its individual parts. This was my mother's favorite selection, by far.

The second dessert in course one was 'Pear' with Port Poached Bartlet, Pepper Crumble, Lemon Meringue, and Spun Sugar. While delicious in its own right, the portion of this dessert was simply too small to share between two persons and fully experience its nuance and subtlety. While the lemon and sugar flavors were pretty to look at, they were largely forgettable - especially compared to the richness of the pear and the sharp contrast of the peppery crumble.
Plates were cleared, more coffee poured, and as we discussed the dishes just consumed we got our first glimpse of the cheese cart and some of the savory items being served to a couple to our left....between the food, the opulent setting, and the service I definitely need to come back for dinner some time.

Dessert course two was the 'custard' course and once again provided two items. The first dish, 'Carmelized Banana Crepes' with Peanut Butter Curry Ice Cream, Peanut Praline, Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce was named my aunt's favorite of the evening and was undoubtedly fantastic, albeit simplistic compared to the complexity of the Greek Yogurt. A small delicate crepe was absolutely stuffed with sweet fingerling bananas that were bruleed for crispiness and then covered with a smooth caramel with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Along side the crepes was a flawlessly smooth peanut butter ice cream with hints of spice akin to and better than the Queen-City Cayenne served at Jeni's back home. For crunch, small pieces of candied peanuts were paired with a dense chocolate smear - the King himself would've loved this dish.

The second dessert of course two was certainly the most challenging in concept and potentially the best overall. 'Nutella' with Hazelnut Panna Cotta, Tellagio Cheese, Milk Chocolate, Creme Fraiche, Grapes, Grape Sorbet can only be described as the best peanut butter and jelly you've never had, Creamy smooth hazelnut panna cotta combined with lucious milk chocolate and creme fraiche provided an experience like Nutella, yet immensely more refined while the grape sorbet tasted like icey grape preserves, For texture, crisp cut grapes and crumbled hazelnuts made an appearance and the oddly placed Tellagio cheese chip provided a savory element that simply brought dish to a peak on the palate. Piece by piece or eaten as a whole, this dish was as much a work of art as a dessert and rivaled the figs at Trotter's early for most complex and wonderful dessert in a very long time.

With the time nearing quarter after eleven our third course arrived, this time with some decaf Intelligentsia, and once again mesmerized. Dessert one,'Chocolate Bar' with Wattleseed Ice Cream, Burnt Caramel Mousse, and Malted Caramel was quite literally a molecular gastronomy take on the Snickers...and it really satisfied. From the thick and heavy chocolate gnache to the heavenly smooth and airy mousse every single aspect of this dessert just "worked" and when consumed as a whole perfectly replicated the flavor of a snickers ice-cream bar - yet so much better. This dish would have been a "best of" during any other meal, but at Tru qualified only as the second favorite of the third course.

The final dessert of the evening was specifically requested (despite the fact that the tasting is supposed to be chef's choice) and thankfully delivered - for it was the best of the night. 'Hot Chocolate Souffle' with Cayenne Pistacchio Crumbs, Saigon Cinnamon Ice Cream, Vanilla Marshmellow, 5-alarm Chocolate Sauce was nothing short off perfect and absolutely the best souffle to ever grace my tongue. Wonderfully light, spicy yet sweet, 'hot' yet refined by the ice-cream - not as complex as other dishes of the evening, but 'better.' Despite being very full I'd have eaten another two servings if I had the chance.
Fully satisfied by the meal, we were further wowed ten minutes after plates were cleared when a small man (earlier seen with the cheeses) arrived with the cart of mignardises - and my what a cart. Being ladies, my mother, sister, and aunt each made a few dainty selections from the cart. but for myself I simply couldn't resist sampling everything the chef had to offfer - one of each please (mom says I need to eat more, anyhow.) Selections included a Coconut cookie, Rum Cake, Lemon Drop, Anise Lollypop, Opera Cake, Caramel, Chocolate Bark with gold leaf, and a Goat Cheese Macaroon. While each was delicious, specific highlights included the superb rum cake and the goat cheese macaroon - the best macaroon I've ever tasted and oddly the item my mother praises the most as single "taste" from the meal.

Feeling quite full at this point, I was once again tempted when the waiter again returned with a plate of candies - and after asking the ladies for their selections simply conceded to giving me one of each with a smile and a nod of approval. Four choices - Eggnog, Blood Orange, Gingerbread, and Caramel - each wowed in their own way, with the gingerbread and blood orange a particularly peaking my interest and the Eggnog wowing my aunt.

As a final nightcap after the candies, each of us were served a stellar passionfruit hot chocolate to "keep us warm in the Chilly Chicago weather." While I'd never really thought of these two flavors as going together, more credit is due to the chef for such a brilliant combination. While my sister did not prefer this dish, I was very pleased with the bold contrasting flavors......pleased enough too finish mine and hers as well.

Completely stuffed and incredibly happy with the choice to come to Tru I finished my last cup of coffee and requested a copy of the menu which was provided in a decorated envelope and we settled the bill - an incredible amount for just dessert, yet worth every single penny and then some. As the valet went to get our car we were each provided with a raspberry financier to go with our morning coffee - a financier that rivaled Mastro's buttercake for density and deliciousness when consumed with my Folgers at the hotel the following morning.

All told, between Trotter's and Tru I spent nearly $250 and six and a half hours on the nights festivities and don't regret the choice one bit - it was the best food day of 2008 and a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family both. For anyone looking for one of the best experiences in quality, quantity, service, and setting I would HIGHLY recommend checking out Tru - I will certainly be back.


Rich said...

i can't believe that you had two tasting menus back-to-back. you must have been very full by the end of the night!

uhockey said...

Very much so.....but totally worth it in all ways.

Anonymous said...

hey there, i have been reading and enjoying your blog for awhile now. do you still plan to return to tru for dinner?

uhockey said...

Eventually, yes. Heading back for NEXT in June, actually.