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Avenues Chicago


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Has anybody been to Avenues since Chef Duffy took over? I haven't been able to find any info on the direction/philosophy of this restaurant under the new Chef. There is a menu online, but it doesn't offer more than a rough ingredient list for each dish.

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  • 1 month later...

I ate the 10 course with a large party several weeks ago. I don't have the menu at hand so I'll suffice to say that it was one of the best fine dining meals I've had in Chicago, comparable only to Schwa and Alinea. Service was impeccable, and the timing of the courses was flawless. With many many wines, the price was about $400.00 per person. I'm not sure how much it would be with less pricy bottles...probably significantly less. I would say overall I prefered both Schwa and Alinea, both for the food, as well as the environments, but it is definetely up there with the best.

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  • 2 months later...

There hasn't been a lot (or really anything I can find) about what's going on at Avenues now that Curtis Duffy has taken over from ChefGEB.

With my family in town for the weekend I decided to book the small private room and give the restaurant a shot (if it sucked, at least it wouldn't be on my dime :) ).

Well, it didn't suck. In fact it was pretty damn awesome, certainly different than under Chef Bowles.. The evidence of Chef Duffy's prior work at Trio and Alinea is on display for the entire meal. For some this may not necessarily be a good thing. If you didn't like Alinea than I would guess that you wouldn't like Avenues either as the style of a lot of the food is very similar. But, if you are a fan of the style of cooking at Alinea, than I would highly recommend that you go and check out what's going on at Avenues.

We enjoyed a 9 course tasting menu (they also have a 4 course and a 15 course). I left my menu there, so I'll just give the highlights as best as I can remember:

The first course was two different shot glasses. The first was filled with a hot asparagus soup. A parmesan cracker was placed over the opening of the shot glass. On top of the cracker was a serious pile of black truffle shavings. We were instructed to alternate taking sips of the soup and bites of the truffle covered cracker. The second shot glass was filled with white truffles from Alba (first of the season?) that had been steeped in milk to form almost a pudding. There was tapioca pearls in the pudding along with a bit of parmesan ice cream. Both were fantastic, with the asparagus soup serving as a real highlight. The white truffle pudding wasn't as strongly flavored as I would have liked, but overall the dish really worked for me.

A couple of courses later came a wonderful scallop dish. A single seared scallop was served along side brown butter, bits of amaranth and some quail grass. There was a small deep purple sphere served next to the scallop. When pierced the sphere let out a wonderful huckleberry juice that really complimented the scallop nicely. The amaranth brought another textural element to the dish that made it a bit more interesting.

Separating the fish from the meat was a dish of hato mugi, which I think is a type of Japanese grain (kind of like barley). It was served in a deep bowl with sorrel. A slice of melted manchego cheese was served over the grains. The dish was finished tableside, with our servers pouring manchego broth into the bowl. I liked this as a transition course but most at the table were not nuts about it.

The highlight of our dinner was the Wagyu beef course. A small piece of Wagyu ribeye that had been cooked to a perfect medium rare on an open flame was served along side a thick puree of smoked coconut and another but of sauce made from basil (?). The beef was absolutely incredible on its own (it was very nicely salted), but was certainly elevated by both sauces. This was certainly one of the best pieces of beef I've ever had (and that was after having a 75 day dry aged ribeye at Primehouse the night before).

Desserts were both fantastic. Our first was a banana noodle, served under a banana ice cream along with a bit of sweet curry and a crouton made from black walnut and banana. The second was a chocolate dish that blew everyone at the table away. A cylinder of malt was in the center of the plate surrounded by chunks of chocolate devil food cake, chocolate pudding, and random shavings of dark and milk chocolate. Nothing to complain about there.

Service was dead on the whole night. We were given nice descriptions of each dish and a bit of instruction on how to eat each dish when necessary (done as unobtrusively as possible).

Bread service was outstanding. Each savory course was paired with its own small piece of bread (ranging from a fennel/mint English muffin to a pretzel roll dusted with black lava salt to a butter roll made with goat's milk butter). Even though they weren't necessary three different "butters" were offered with the bread: salted cow's milk, goat's milk, and a nicely assertive olive oil emulsion.

There were a few open tables last night which in my view is an absolute shame. There are some wonderful things going on at Avenues right now and they certainly deserve a lot more love than they've been getting.


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

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I saw Chef Duffy at the Pen's booth at Chicago Gourmet over the weekend. I also took a look at their menu. The menu still only mentions the main ingredients of each dish, without describing preparation techniques. The 4 course is $75, the 9 course is $115, and the 15 course is $145, if I recall correctly.

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  • 1 month later...

Last week, following a friend’s advice, we decided to try “Avenues” at the Peninsula Hotel now under Chef Curtis Duffy.

There are three menus (a four, a seven and the 18 full tasting menu). We opted for the last one ($140 per menu).

The room is still the same “Avenues” room with, I think, a few different touches. It still feels like a very cold room to me. The clientele was older, very Winnetka and/or Glencoe, a little different from what I was expecting given what I had heard about Chef Duffy’s cuisine. The service was good—a very hard working staff—and my server Jason was outstanding. There is a clear “Alinea” influence in both the plating and the concept of some of the dishes; an influence that Chef Curtis, thanks to some very clever twists, transforms into his own creations. I was very impressed.

I will only talk about some of the dishes, but, overall, they were all very, very good. They were all complemented by a very large selection of different breads from pretzels, to English Muffins, Waffles and foccacias, among many others. Two butters and an emulsion of herbs was also served. Throughout the menu, there were many ingredients/spices that appeared many times under different preparations: fennel, coconut, ginger, cocoa and many others. They were all very interesting and since it was a long evening—almost four hours—I never felt it was repetitive.

The first surprise was the “White Truffle. Tapioca, parmesan, chive.” It was served in a small glass. IT had the tapioca pudding, parmesan in two ways (sherbet and a sablée that had been crumbled), and the Alba truffle shavings. Impressive.

Then we had the “Potato. Bacon, mustard seed, lovage.” It was his take on potato soup. There were several types of potatoes (Peruvian, fingerling). Actually the fingerling potatoes were used as table legs and the top was a frozen bacon consommé. Whimsical and satisfying.

It was followed by “Guelly Jack. Cocoa, pistachio, fennel pollen.” It contained Brined fennel and fennel marmalade among the different elements. Delicious. “Rock Fish and Roe, semillion verjus, hon shimeji, spruce” simply pan seared and then the spruce was transformed into meringue chips, cream and (coconut?) powder.

After the fish courses, the meats started with one of the best lamb dishes I have ever had, the menu simply read “Lamb. Cranberry, gingerbread, mint.” Excellent on all counts, to be followed by Squab (ok for squab) and the Wagyu (incredible).

Between the the lamb and the Squab, there was a very good dish with a description that augured danger: “Hato Mugi. Manchego, red wine, sorrel.” The Hato Mugi (Japanese Barley) had been prepared like a risotto and the Manchego was present in three different preps: grated, a slice and in the broth. I guess it was not for everybody but it was definitely for me. A sharp contrast but completely winning.

The palate cleanser was one of the best I have ever had in recent memory: “Carbonated Cabernet Verjus.”

The desserts were very good. The plating was a little off but they were very good. Both the Blood Orange sorbet, with fennel and black olive pures, and Moscovado sugar gelée accentuated with Praline crumbles worked very well. However, the big surprise was the “Carrot. Passion Fruit, white chocolate, lemongrass.” The plate looked like a lox platter thanks to the ginger and carrot confit that cornered the carrot and white chocolate (it looked like a frozen cookie). Incredible.

There were many other dishes, all of them very good. They do not have a wine pairing service per se, but their wine pairing (two and two, plus dessert wines) was very good also. For what I ate and drank, I would have expected to pay a lot more money. As it is now, it is a steal. I am surprised that the new "Avenues" has been flying under the radar. It certainly did not open with some of the hype that welcomed other Chicago restaurants but it ranks among the best meals to be had in Chicago. I, for one, will be visiting “Avenues” a lot more often.

There are pics if someone wants to see them.


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Thanks for your usually well done and informative report, Lenski. Pics are always welcome :smile: It is good to hear such positive things from someone whose palate I know and trust. Do they still have the bar at the kitchen?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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