I've been itching to go back to Graham Elliot since I first visited this past July. I had a really great experience the last time I was there and really loved the new-American, deconstructed approach to cooking. Since July, Chef Bowles has certainly been all over the food scene with a cover on Time Out Chicago, plans for a new sandwhich shop in Chicago called Grahamwich, and the recent announcement that he would be returning to Top Chef Master 2. He also spent some time in Italy, so I was curious to see if that trip would influence his Winter menu. I couldn't withhold my cravings any longer, so on Saturday I finally made a trip back to this Chicago hot-spot.
Imagine my excitement upon walking in and seeing the master himself, Chef Bowles, standing right at the host stand. He extended a friendly greeting to both of us and already I could justify a trip to GE. We arrived early and had enough time to enjoy one of their famous drink concoctions at the bar. I had a very girly Rose Petals cocktail with Prosecco, Pinot Gris and lemon flavoring. It was quite delicious and a great starting off point for the night.
The last time I was at Graham Elliot I was with four other girls, so we had a nice sampling of several things on the menu. This time, we looked at the a la carte menu, then looked at the tasting menu, and agreed that everything on the tasting menu sounded phenomenal, so we went that route.
Here's a look at the lineup...
baby romaine / parmesan fluff / white anchovy / brioche twinkie with garlic marscapone filling
chive marshmallow / crispy pancetta / potato skin
haricot vert / blood orange / marcona almond / brown butter
beef cheek / potato confit / root vegetables / foie consomme
guiness stout gelato / malted milk / cocoa crumble / dark chocolate genache
I really enjoyed everything on our menu, but the only course that really stood out to me was the scallop almondine. It's so amazing how the components on their own may not taste so great (in this case, the almond and brown butter sauce), but when combined with everything it tastes wonderful. I'm a total sucker for scallops and these little guys just melted in my mouth. I really loved how the citrus from the blood oranges complemented the dish as well. The pot roast was delicious as well. It was some of the most tender meat I've ever tasted.
We also had a 2006 bottle of Hitching Post to go with our meal. This California wine was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. Initially, I thought it was going to taste too sweet, but then the sweetness opened up to a spiciness which was nice. It wasn't as smooth as the Pinot Noirs that I tend to gravitate towards, but I enjoyed it none the less.
Overall, I was certainly impressed with the meal and still very turned on to Graham Elliot, but I probably enjoyed my experience slightly more in the Summer. The portions on the tasting menu are somewhat small and I didn't leave as full as I would have liked. I think it also helped that in the Summer I got to experience about ten different dishes as opposed to five because I was with such a bigger group. Graham Elliot makes eating food fun and you've got to respect a Chef that takes the time to walk around and converse with his patrons.