I am going to write about this dinner, because I need to purge it from my mind, but I am not going to go into tons of detail about it, as I usually do because, well, I just don’t have the energy for it.
Chef Curtis Duffy is an extremely celebrated chef in Chicago—he worked under Charlie Trotter and Grant Achatz at Trio and Alinea and has been awarded two Michelin stars at both Avenues, and his current location, Grace. Hubby and I had eaten at Avenues and not really dug it, but thought it was maybe too close to when they ended up closing. Well, as it turns out, we just don’t really care for his food. And seemingly we’re the only ones. But when you spend several hundred dollars on dinner and a wine pairing and for the second time you leave the place fairly nonplussed, we have decided we’re breaking up with Chef Duffy for good.
It’s a 9-course prix fixe menu. The meal started with several little amuse items in a log. One of them was a bruleed banana which would have tasted great for dessert, but kind of killed your taste for the other things in the log. The next course, which really annoyed hubby, was a little jar filled with bits of cod, caviar, lychee and chive. They put it in a jar in the style of yogurt (why, I’m not sure) but when you opened it smoke came out. Hubby inhaled a bunch of it and it was very strong smelling. Food-wise, it wasn’t overly flavorful, which seemed to be something that carried throughout the seafood courses. They were beautiful, like the Alaskan king crab dish (that was just like one we had at Avenues) with the sugar disc that you cracked into to get to the crab below and the tai (a sea bream) with plum and chanterelles. Pretty but lacking.
The first non-seafood dish we had was probably the best of the savory courses. There was a little piece of amazingly tender and perfectly medium rare lamb with some artichoke in various forms—my favorite being the long crunchy piece of artichoke that was crispy. This one had a lot of interesting sauces and various textures. I was excited about the sweetbread course that came next, but again, it ended up kind of bland—there was a lot of crunchy grains mixed in that made the dish a little strange in texture and took away from the creaminess of the sweetbread.
The beef that came next was interesting—the pieces of beef themselves were very nice. Some raw, some roasted and I liked the crispy rice cracker type thing. The slightly sweet peanuts were good as well. There was a lemongrass flavored broth to sip alongside. It had an interesting taste, but it was just too much going on. And the sauce on the plate didn’t really do anything for me.
There were several desserts that were probably the best 3 courses in a row of the meal but still didn’t blow my mind. There was a green chartreuse course, which was a frozen herby liqueur with blueberry, ginger and mint, a peach course with almond and lemon verbena and then a final chocolate course with huckleberry and whisky. They were pretty, but again, don’t stick out a lot. There were truffles as well and honestly my favorite thing, a spicy chocolate bar that they sent us home with.
The tour of the immaculate clean and quiet kitchen after dinner was a nice touch and reminded me of Charlie Trotter, where they also gave tours.
I don’t know, I guess this chef’s style is lost on me. I have friends who rank this place very high on their “best meals” list. Honestly, I’d rather hit Bluebeard on a good night and spend a small fraction of the money.
652 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661