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ulterior epicure

Graham Elliot

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Is there a bar where one can have a cocktail and/or eat with out a rezo?

Toby


A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Is there a bar where one can have a cocktail and/or eat with out a rezo?

Toby

Yes, there is a bar and lounge area that has communal tables.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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We also ate there last week. It is a very nice space, simple.

We had a couple of cocktails but the real standout for me was not a cocktail per se but their take on "Sangría," and "Bloody Mary." The former has a sangría sorbet/granita-like texture at the bottom, and pieces of orange/clementine? and apple. The BM has its tomato concoction and a horseradish foam/ice-cream? on top. Fantastic.

The food was fine, the serving size is more than generous. I could have done with half of the Ceasar Salad, and the short ribs; Chef GE's take on Stroganoff. THe scallops were incredible, served on top of a pea purée. Simple but effective. The gnocchi were good, but too many elements that did not coalesce into a truly satisfying dish; and also the portion was huge.

I did not care much for the lamb, nor for their gazpacho (a little bland).

One of the dishes had a shallot marmalade, but I have forgotten which one. I think it is symptomatic of the layering of too many elements.

For dessert, we all shared the brownie. It was fine.

Good service and very good drinks. I was surprised at the bill. In my opinion, expensive for what I had. Drinks were regularly priced, although the specialty drinks added a significant amount. However, it is a good place.

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I FINALLY got out to graham elliot. Here's an excerpt from my blog post.

I had forgotten that chicken could taste this good. Although the menu indicated that it was poached, I suspect it had undergone some kind of Hogwarts treatment. It was the most tender and flavorful plate of chicken I've had in too many years. Even my friend, who has a hard and fast rule about not eating chicken (the reasons are very vague and confusing to me), was convinced to take a bite of the roulade of breast meat. She agreed that it was mighty fine chicken.

...he's earned the ability to strike out under his own brand of culinary artistry.

He calls it "bistronomy" - "redefining fine dining." This is *not* Avenues, where he reigned as chef supreme for four wonderful years. This is Elliotland, a personalized playground for the adult kid that he is. It's complete with (you can precede each of the following with "great") food, drinks, a website, and a soundtrack. It's the kind of place that you want to go with good friends, which is what I did.

It's no secret that Bowles and I are acquainted. For months, I had been keeping up with him about the progress of the restaurant. He had shown me the restaurant space in March. At that time, it was an empty shell. I wouldn't know it from a condemned warehouse. He told me, optimistically, that he aimed for the restaurant to open in late May/early June.

Knowing the way restaurant openings usually go, I took this as "code" for late October/early November.

But, true to his word, graham elliot opened on time - sadly, long before I managed to make my way to Chicago again.

So, I sat on the sidelines watching as food bloggers and others reported back about their experiences.

From the U-shaped bar to the floor plan, the website, the color scheme, and the atmosphere, the restaurant is exactly as Chef Bowles had described it to me five months earlier.

The menu is divided into four categories: Cold and Hot (both starters) and Sea and Land (main courses). Of course, there's a dessert menu as well.

Portions are what I call "big boy" sizes. You definitely won't walk away hungry. Everything, be it salad or side of hoofed animal is served on the same fifteen-inch (guestimating) white enamel plates (from IKEA).

You also won't walk away terribly broke either. Although the prices aren't exactly cheap ($9-$15 for starters; $27-$33 main courses), value is high and the execution is superb. The average tab for a three-course meal with a drink is probably approaching, if not just a little past $60.

My two friends and I each ordered two starters (I had two Cold and my friends had one Cold and Hot each). They each ordered one main course and I asked if Chef could split a fish and a meat for me, which he agreed to do (I couldn't decide what to order, so I just left it up to him). But, he also sent out a second round of full-sized main courses for my friends (which were comped), just so they wouldn't feel left out. We had PLENTY of food.

Here is what we ordered:

Cold

Slow Roasted Beets

Kobe Beef Tartar

Ahi Tuna Carpaccio

Hot

Creamy Artichoke Bisque

Truffled Potato Gnocchi

Sea

Lake Superior Whitefish

Grilled Hawaiian Wahoo

Land

Poached Organic Chicken

Rosemary Scented Lamb

Short Rib Stroganoff

Pork Prime Rib

Dessert

Molten Carrot Cake

Vanilla Bean Semifreddo

Sour Lemon Napoleon

Each season paints the restaurant with a new color and vegetable/fruit theme. As you can see from my photos, summer = yellow. The dining was awash in yellow light (one that had a food blogger-proof frequency that disarmed my camera's white balance function). Double-mirrored showcases set into the exposed brick wall displayed lemons that seemed to stretch into infinity. Autumn will bring orange lights and pumpkins; winter, white lights with herbs (that's when I need to return for some color-adjusted photos); and spring, green lights (I can't wait to see my pictures from THAT meal) with mushrooms.

On a mid-week night, the restaurant was humming by 6pm when I arrived at the bar for a pre-dinner drink, packed by 8 when we were mid-meal, and empty - almost clearing out instantly - by a quarter after 10 when we finished. There's a definite rhythm to this operation.

Chef sent out his signature "Foielipop" as a pre-dinner lagniappe - a ball of foie gras mousse coated in pop rocks on a lolipop stick. Along with it came a glass of NV Dampierre Grande Cuvee Champagne, on the house. I don't think of champagne and foie gras as a particularly intuitive pairing. It's not. But champagne with pop rocks was something else. Try it sometime.

Having eaten at Avenues quite a few times, most recently in March just before Chef Bowles's departure from The Peninsula, I had gotten a preview of graham elliot's menu. For example, the Aged Cheddar Risotto on the Hot portion of the menu is a slightly tweaked version of the "Risotto" I had at Avenues, rife with apples, bacon and cheddar, and garnished with Cheez-It crackers. Spicy Buffalo Chicken is a chicken variation of the "Quail," with the same accompaniments: celeriac slaw, "bleu" cheese, hot sauce, and Budweiser beer froth. And his famous "Romaine" now appears on the menu as GE Caesar Salad, still with the romaine lettuce, Spanish boquerones, and brioche "Twinkies" filled with Parmesan mascarpone.

The Kobe Beef Tartare on graham elliot's menu is a course that I've seen evolve over the course of a few years. The "Tartare" course I had at Avenues over two years ago was an early prototype. It featured Wagyu beef tartare on a carpet of parsley panna cotta and topped with a horseradish beignet and Bearnaise sauce gelato. More recently, it had developed so that the tartare sat on a Bearnaise sauce panna cotta and was topped with smoked ice cream. Now, the beef is topped with a Bearnaise sauce gelee, watercress, smoked ice cream and a potato chips.

At Avenues, the hallmark of Chef Bowles's cooking was the ability to ingeniously embody wit in dainty and finessed forms. At graham elliot, Chef Bowles sets this playfulness right side up and presents himself, unplugged.

I mean, the food is still witty - like the Lake Superior Whitefish, which was a clever stab at a German fish fry, with a saucy tartar flecked with bits of tart relish, vinegary potato and cabbage salads and a fried pickle - or the Short Rib Stroganoff, a flashback to the 70's family meal, which featured a hunk of short rib meat on a bed of egg noodles with crimini mushrooms and ladled with peppery creme fraiche.

And, it's still playful - preying upon a weakness of mine, the restaurant serves (lime and brown butter) popcorn instead of bread.

But, gone are the smug quotes. There are no more cute, rehearsed theatrics or table-side presentations. If you tap into the wit - like the Molten Carrot Cake (I can't help but laugh at the commentary it makes on *that* chocolate version), which has a cream cheese core and is sided by sour cream ice cream raisin compote, and a shard of crunchy walnut brittle - great. If not, the food speaks for itself.

The food is simple, big, and bold, like the Prime Pork Rib, the juiciest and most flavorful pork chop I've ever had; it put the Berkshire Pork "2 Ways" that I had at Justus Drugstore last year, to shame. Double cut and the size of a small MACK truck, Bowles's version came glazed with a sweet barbecue sauce on a bed of creamy grits, braised collard greens, and topped with a peach chutney. My friends and I joked that the dish should be renamed OINK; there's really no other way to describe it or one's reaction to it.

There was also a Slow Roasted Beet salad, with hazelnuts and whipped chevre. Truffled Potato Gnocchi was a comforting dish of fluffy gnocchi and asparagus tossed with truffle oil and topped with a fried egg with a runny yolk. And a savory Creamy Artichoke Bisque found a wonderful contrast in tart preserved lemons, sweet onion jam, and crispy fried leeks.

The only dish that I'm not sure worked for me (although my friends loved it) was the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio. There was perhaps a little too much activity on the plate: the tissue-thin slices of tuna were accompanied by crushed Marcona almonds and sided by a creamy chickpea salad topped with pimento foam and crispy sheets of Serrano ham. While the throw towards Spain was interesting, I'm not sure it was my style. I wanted to taste more of the tuna.

The three desserts that we tried were all very good. My favorite was probably the Sour Lemon Napoleon, which found pucker-tart lemon curd sandwiched between crisp layers of basil-flocked phyllo. The stack was sided by blueberry sorbet. Being the closest thing to ice cream on the menu, I naturally enjoyed the Vanilla Bean Semifreddo. It had a pina colada appeal. The dome of fluffy white frozen mousse-like cream was garnished with toasted coconut and sided by soft, stewed dices of pineapple.

Service was great. I told Chef Bowles that it was like Avenues without the raised pinky. The staff all sport casual brown button-ups, jeans, and sneakers. Jim Colombo, whom had cooked for me last time at Avenues, is now managing the front of the house at graham elliot. It's the kitchen's loss, but the dining room's gain. He welcomed my friends and me and floated around the dining room making sure everything and everyone was taken care of.

A few other notes:

1. The noise and energy levels were high; it's definitely not a place for a quiet and intimate night out.

2. There's a copper-top hightop near in the bar area that seats up to 10. It's great for a large group or for communal eating. Chef Bowles is having the restaurant's name stenciled and cut out of the copper so that the table can be lit from underneath.

3. graham elliot has it's own water filtration and carbonation system. All of the water for the restaurant is bottled in personalized "ge" glass bottles that not only save on waste, but are pretty darn cool to look at.

4. The wine is organized by menu sections: Cold, Hot, Sea, Land, and Sweets. There's also a funny and witty assortment of cocktails (unfortunately, I didn't get to try any) and a spirits and beer list. I let our server, Patrick, pair two beers for my main courses. He poured Two Brothers Ebel Weiss with the Lake Superior Whitefish and the Goose Island Oatmeal Stout with the Rosemary-Scented Lamb (which, was so tender and moist that I mistook leg for tenderloin. It was amazing.). Both pairings worked very well. The stout went even better with the Short Rib Stroganoff.

I have to admit, being friends with Elliot and the house, I was nervous about my visit: what if I didn't like it? Thankfully, I didn't have to negotiate that bridge.

Chef Bowles, if you're reading, I loved the food, the atmosphere, and the service. When you're having this much fun, you're critic-proof. graham elliot is a winner. I can't wait to get back.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Listen up all you foieheads out there: In conjunction with Lollapalooza 2008, Chef Graham Elliot Bowles will be celebrating the return of foie gras, legally, to Chicago with Foielapalooza, "a three-day foie gras and music extravaganza featuring a nightly changing foie preparation inspired by and served with music from that evening's headlining act."

August 1: Radiohead

Foie Gras in Rainbows: Grilled foie gras with stewed blackberries, dehydrated raspberries, strawberry puree, blueberry air.

August 2: Wilco

Yankee Hotel Foie Gras: Cornnut-crusted foie gras with corn foam, caramel corn, popcorn shoots, candy corn Sunday.

August 3: Nine Inch Nails

Head Like a Foie: Poached foie gras torchon with black olive, black pepper, black licorice, aged balsamic.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I have been totally slammed since we got home from Chicago - and my schedule the next couple of weeks doesn't look any better. No time for long reviews. We dined at GE one evening in Chicago - and I think my opinion is pretty much in between UE's and Lenski's. Good dinner - not outstanding. (Note that I am a harsh grader - "outstanding" is usually reserved for meals at the 2 and 3 star Michelin levels.) I'd probably go again next time I'm in Chicago.

One thing that did stand out was the service. I had read some negative reviews about it - but our server - and the service - were terrific. We also had a nice chat with the chef after. The restaurant was pleasantly full on a weekday night (we had a 7:30 reservation and pretty much closed up the place) - but not so crowded that it detracted from the dining experience. As for the loud music that I'd read about - or any other loud noise - I simply didn't notice any (perhaps they were playing mellow "classic rock" that night :smile: ). The dining atmosphere was fine even for an old person like me :wink: .

Guess you have to be a friend of the restaurant to get the Foielipop as an amuse. We didn't. I'm not complaining. Just make sure that if you want it - that you ask for it.

As for price - considering the money we spent taking out family members on this trip (we were in the midwest for a wedding) - and what we spent on my father's catered 90th birthday for 35 last weekend - this will be a mere blip on our AMEX bill this month. Wasn't a cheap meal - but it wasn't that expensive either. OK price-wise for the quality of the meal. Robyn

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"You've got some [restaurant raters] that will include you only if you use high-quality silverware, fancy tablecloths—they've got checklists. Well, [i summarily reject] that."

It looks as though Vittel didn't appreciate that comment. Oh well. I found it to be fantastic, and I'm a huge fan of what Chef Bowles is going for. This seems to be one of those cases where you either go for the stripped-down, just for the food approach, or you don't. I do. Phil doesn't.

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"You've got some [restaurant raters] that will include you only if you use high-quality silverware, fancy tablecloths—they've got checklists. Well, [i summarily reject] that."

It looks as though Vittel didn't appreciate that comment.  Oh well.  I found it to be fantastic, and I'm a huge fan of what Chef Bowles is going for.  This seems to be one of those cases where you either go for the stripped-down, just for the food approach, or you don't.  I do.  Phil doesn't.

As I replied to a similar line of reasoning on another forum:

Right, as I just said to a friend, expectation often forms 90% of a dining experience take-away.

I don't necessarily think there's a[n inside] "joke" to get. People need to wipe the Bowles slate clean and start anew. For those who don't approach graham elliot like they would any other restaurant of its look and feel, I think the "joke's" on them. While it may seem incredulous to the members on this forum who care enough to be following this thread, people are still showing up at graham elliot dressed to the nines expecting linen and *plush.* I find that sad.

As I had noted in my review (upthread), I think Bowles is at a stage in his career (surprisingly early and young) where he's through with catering to the critics. Although I'd like to think I'm a fairly objective fellow, I'll allow that being a friend of Bowles may have colored my experience/assessment (of course, I don't think that it did).


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I actually responded to the same thread on that other forum...

I have no relationship with Chef Bowles at all, but I've been to both Avenues and Graham Elliot, and I'll eat what he's cooking wherever he's cooking it. His food has repeatedly blown me away, and while I enjoyed the atmosphere at GE, I would look past it if I hadn't.

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It's odd. I am neither young nor "hip" - but I liked the restaurant decor and the ambience. And I saw the place twice - once at dinner when it was dark outside and once earlier in the middle of the day when we were gallery hopping in the neighborhood. I thought the place even looked ok in broad daylight (which is rarely the case in a "darker wood" kind of environment - as opposed to a "white box" like Blackbird). Also - although I appreciate fine crystal - china - etc. (I am not above turning over plates to see the brand if they appeal to me) - I like Ikea too - because it has great style for the price. So I really don't understand where this critic is coming from. When I compare GE to Michael's Genuine in Miami - about the closest comparison I can make in terms of recent dining experiences - well everyone raves about Michael's Genuine but I thought both the food and the atmosphere at GE were about 10 times better. Robyn

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graham elliot will be rolling out a new autumn-minded menu in two weeks. They'll also be turning over their decor and "theme" to suit the seasonal change.

Hours are being adjusted as well: Monday-Saturday 5pm-10:30pm. The restaurant will close on Sundays.

You can find details of specific dishes to be added/dropped at the ulterior epicure.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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From the Crain's article Lenski linked, this sounds more like a fairly big shift in style than just seasonal changes to the menu...taking this more in the direction of fine dining rather than the "bistronomic" idea GEB started out with. UE, since you're pretty tied in here, any insight?

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From the Crain's article Lenski linked, this sounds more like a fairly big shift in style than just seasonal changes to the menu...taking this more in the direction of fine dining rather than the "bistronomic" idea GEB started out with.  UE, since you're pretty tied in here, any insight?

I have not been there in a couple of months. I love that place but it seems to be changing. I will try to go on my next trip to Chicago...

PS. I have seen the man many times (both at Avenues and at his new venture) but I have never talked to him.

l

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From the Crain's article Lenski linked, this sounds more like a fairly big shift in style than just seasonal changes to the menu...taking this more in the direction of fine dining rather than the "bistronomic" idea GEB started out with.  UE, since you're pretty tied in here, any insight?

I spoke with Elliot the other day about the recent press that he and his restaurant has received.

After three months of getting feedback from our guests (reviews, bloggers, foodies, etc), he knew he needed to make some changes to the restaurant's format. He knew he could do a higher level of food, but wanted to find the right balance between fine dining and casual. He says that he's moved closer to his target: playing more indie music (not hits from the 80's), having servers wear dress shirts with seasonally changing t-shirts underneath (currently orange), adding a reserve wine list, and of course, changing the menu to feature more of the cuisine he's been known for. Since they were planning to change the lighting and decor seasonally (orange, gold, squash, pumpkins, etc. for autumn), he waited to incorporate all of the other changes at once - at the turn of this past season change, thereby launching "GE 2.0." But, he never said that the restaurant "wouldn't survive unless we made a change."

Elliot maintains that he holds true to the principles of Bistronomics and "fine dining redefined," but he admitted that the restaurant is still evolving. If I know Elliot, he'll continually try to make it better, more provocative, and interesting.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Happy anniversary, graham elliot! One year is not a smile milestone in these uncertain times.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Ditto, congrats! Looking forward to making our first visit in August. Do you think ChefGEB would resurrect dishes of days past for someone who never got a chance to hit Avenues? Anyone know what days he's usually in the kitchen?


Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

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did anyone visit the graham elliot food stand at Lollapalooza? I tried the lobster corn dog with lemon aoli which was amazing but the best part was meeting the man himself who was actually there cooking at his own stand - one of the most down to earth chef's I've ever met!

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I'm sad to admit that last friday I had one of the least pleasurable "fine dining" experiences ever at Graham Elliot. I've had the pleasure of eating chef Bowles' food at Avenues and a few years ago at Graham Elliot, so I was greatly looking forward to my return visit with my family. We did the chef's tasting ~15 courses. Honestly, I can't remember a single stand out dish. If I had to pick a color to describe the overall feel, taste, and color palette used during this meal I'd have to go with beige....or gray. I'm often a positive person and can find some good in most things, but am really struggling here to describe this meal. All the typical ingredients of a large format tasting were there (caviar, foie, wagyu) but simply displayed poorly.

The presentations were all very similar and uninspired. Most were brought out on the same large plate and the course plated on the plate edge/rim leaving a broad, open canvas of white/beige plate. Unique for one or two courses, but not 5-6. Also there was an average of 10-15 minutes between courses. We had explained that we only had about 3.5 hours to eat and were repeatedly told by our waiter that he was pushing the kitchen. In the end the meal took about 4 hours.

One dish, featuring some meat or mushroom on the plates rim was served with heated pine branches on the plate for aroma......all too reminiscent of an alinea dish that was far more impressive given the amount of branches placed before the diner. This just seemed underwhelming and like an uninspired and half hearted attempt.

The carrot cake consisted of a dry, beige cake with a quenelle of ice cream and shaved raw carrots. I remember having a similar dish elsewhere that I really enjoyed due to the combination of flavors and that the carrots had at least been lightly cooked and seasoned with nutmeg and brown sugar. In this dish, the ice cream was the only enjoyable ingredient.

They even managed to make the tenderloin center a muted shade of red. Perhaps it was purposeful that they are attempting to make every dish like the mossy terrariums throughout the restaurant.

I won't belabor the point, but just wanted to share my dissatisfaction and disappointment. At least our wine was comped without any statements by us (or maybe simply forgotten to be billed). I understand restaurants can have an off night, but a friday night with a half full restaurant seems like a strange time for this to happen, but from my impression this was not a one night thing.

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From what I have read recently, there have been a number of changes of chefs at the restaurant. I also recall reading that maybe Elliot himself was back in the kitchen to cover some of the bumps in the road. Their executive chef Andrew Brochu lett recently and the pastry chef Bryce Caron had wanted consideration to replace him. Then Caron left suddenly.


"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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From what I have read recently, there have been a number of changes of chefs at the restaurant. I also recall reading that maybe Elliot himself was back in the kitchen to cover some of the bumps in the road. Their executive chef Andrew Brochu lett recently and the pastry chef Bryce Caron had wanted consideration to replace him. Then Caron left suddenly.

Very interesting post. We live about 4 blocks from there and passed by last Saturday and......it didn't look that busy. I thought.....hmmm....that was strange. When we were there before people were standing in line before they even opened the doors!

:-( Sad to hear about that experience, hopefully that was just a "bad night" and not just symbolic of the new "normal".

Todd in Chicago

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