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Carlos Restaurant


budrichard
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I won't regale you with pictures or detailed tasting notes, suffice it to say that Carlos has maintained high standards for over 20 years in Highwood Illinois.

We went for lunch today because 1. Carlos is only open at lunch time around the Holidays and 2. there is no corkage fee on Mondays. I had previously delivered a split of champagne and a 1961 Chateau Beausujour so they could rest.

Lunch was a sort of Prix Fixe with alternatives. Opt for the cold and hot Hudson Valley Foie Gras for an additional $8, a delight.

Service was the usual impeccable friendly and light hearted. All in all, very enjoyable. -Dick

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I won't regale you with pictures or detailed tasting notes,

please do.

We have not been to Carlos for awhile, but have always been very pleased, sometimes wowed at Carlos.

nice tip on the Monday byob

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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I will say hello for you Craig. Carlos and Debbie are right up there with the Brennan's proving that a succesful restaurant does not have to be built on chef star quality.

Wille , I certainly would like to oblige you with pics and tasting notes but for us and friends that were with us, the dining was only a part of the lunch. Good friends, good wine, stimulating conversation and good food, they all go together- not at the expense of just one. Dick

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  • 11 months later...

I'm still buzzing from a fantastic meal and overall dining experience I had at Carlos this past weekend. I cannot remember the last time I was treated so specially by a restaurant. In addition to the food being absolutely stellar, Carlos provides efficient, professional and comfortable service from beginning to end. This is probably true at Carlos no matter which server a party has but we felt extremely lucky to have Marcello as our captain. He was masterful.

I ordered the degustation menu with wine pairings and was quite pleased with not only the fantastic choices but also the way we were all encouraged to substitute and add items from both the standard menu and the specials menu.

First, we were presented with a delicious amuse of corn blini and smoked salmon roe. This was topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh herbs.

The procession continued with some champagne and a fairly traditional--and immaculately presented--service of Ossetra caviar. Next, a wonderful combination plate containing a decadent wedge of Roasted Mushroom Terrine with White Truffle and a Bisque of Espuna and Kabocha Squash.

I chose a salad from the special menu that was out of this world: Maine Lobster Tail with Pan-Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Frisee, Endive and Mango Salad with a Vanilla-Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Again, this was a fairly traditional combination of components but it was executed so well and was incredibly delicious.

Next, I enjoyed the Rigatoni stuffed with a Portobella-Kessari Farci and a Roasted Red Pepper Coulis. I dedicated this fantastic dish to our vegetarian cohort who had to cancel at the last minute due to illness. He would have loved it. It was worthy of love, even from a non-vegetarian.

For my main course I again went to the special menu and chose the Morgan Ranch Kobe Beef Tenderloin Crusted in Fresh Herbs with Mushroom Ragout, with Winter Squash Gnocchi and Pomegranate Gastrique. I really enjoyed this dish and was amazed at how compatible everything on the plate was. The flavors and textures fit together perfectly. I loved the Kobe beef--at least the texture of it. But, served the way it was, I had a difficult time discerning whatever the distinctive flavor elements of the Kobe beef may have been. Still, it was amazingly tasty and quite satisfying.

Before I describe the desserts, I should talk about the wines. I wish I'd taken better notes and I'm not a passionate wine person but we did have a few selections (as part of the degustation pairings) that were terrific. I especially enjoyed the 2000 Rex Hill Pinot Noir which was paired with the....well, I wish I could remember (pretty sure it was the Rigatoni). :blush: We also ordered a couple of extra bottles that were sensational: 1998 Ler Cru Les Verges Chassagne Montrachet, by Domaine Guy Amiot et fils and a very spectacular bottle of 1995 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. And as good as that was, the red wine that was paired with the Kobe dish (cannot remember the details well when I don't get to see the bottle) was as good or even better than the Groth. I guess that's what happens when a wine professional pairs the wine with the food. :wink:

Desserts were very tasty. We were served a wonderful assortment of Petit Fours and also ordered a few special desserts. The Mini Chocolate Cake with Molten Center, served with Home-Made Vanilla Ice Cream was reliably excellent. The Grand Marnier Souffle, while being texturally bold and somewhat loose was way too eggy tasting for me. We chose a few others to sample as well. The Trio of Chocolate Mousse (white, milk and dark) was great as was the Canoe of 2 Creme Brulees (white chocolate and dark chocolate, IIRC) but by that point I was so completely full that further dessert sampling was a joke. There was some sort of Pecan Bar dessert ordered as well but puh-leeze, it was complete overkill :biggrin:

At every turn we were pampered beyond belief. I believe we could have asked for anything and been accomodated. At one point during our meal, we descended from the gorgeous private room in which we were seated down to the street for a cigarette break (I was just spectating). While we were out there, we saw an employee running (and I do mean running) back into the restaurant toting a bag from the grocery store. Again, Carlos is all about service.

But don't be misled. Carlos serves amazing food and their impressive wine list is the size of a phonebook. I'd say that Carlos was world-class but I'm just not worldly enough to make that claim. Still, I'd be shocked to learn of anyone's disappointment at Carlos. I can say with fair confidence that my meal at Carlos was one of the 10 best meals I've ever had.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Ronnie,

I'm very glad to hear that. Carlos' seems to have been silently lurking behind the spotlight when in reality the serve amazing food with great service.

I do say this from a somewhat biased perspective, however. Several months ago, when egullet was hosting a Q and A with Mario Batali, I posted this question

He responded and as you can see, told me to try sending letters to local restaurants asking to work one day a week. Well I did as he told me (sending a letter to pretty much every upscale restuarant in Chicago) and lo and behold one day I got a call from Ramiro Valesquez (the Executive Chef at Carlos) asking if I would still be interested in the "job". Anyway, to make a long story short, I am now doing something of an appreticeship at Carlos' on Saturdays.

So, if you're ever at Carlos' on a Saturday evening, please stop in the kitchen and say hello. And I hope you enjoy your dinner!

Edited by bentherebfor (log)

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Ben, that is most excellent. I wish I'd known because the dinner I described above took place last Saturday night and it would have been great to say "hi."

Our original plans to go to Le Titi de Paris got scrubbed so we ended up at Carlos only because of a lucky (for us) last minute cancellation. Either way, we would have ended up at Heartlander's place of "employment" as adoxograph is currently doing a stage at LTdP.

Are you enjoying the gig? How long have you been at it?

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I am enjoying it quite a bit. I sent the letters out in early August and I think I started at Carlos' towards the end of August. So, maybe 3 months or so. The people at the restaurant are extraordinarily nice, particularly the waiters, who I would agree with Chicago Magazine are the funniest waiters in Chicago.

First, we were presented with a delicious amuse of corn blini and smoked salmon roe. This was topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh herbs.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed your amuse, as that is typically my main job other than prep work.

I hope to be able to eat there soon, as I have not had a chance yet, although I have done more than my fair shair of sampling. I can tell you that you won't lose with the sweetbreads or the foie gras, and I certainly love the escargots. I tend to snack on the Petit Fours and have never been let down, and the creme brulee certainly looks amazing, though I have never had the chance to try it.

Anway, from inside the kitchen Carlos' certainly seems to be amazing, though I have never gotten the customer experience. And once again, if you come to find out for yourself, do stop in and say hello!

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Carlos will again be open for lunch starting 12/9 for the month of December. We will again be having lunch on 12/13 there. Tomorrow i will be dropping off a split of Champagne and a bottle of 1964 Chambertin. What a way to start the Holidays. -Dick

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...and just to fill in the blanks, here is their information:

Carlos' Restaurant

429 Temple

Highland Park, IL 60635

847 432-0770

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lunch Monday at Carlos was as usual, excellent. There is something to be said for waitstaff that you know for years and have become very comfortable in thier knowledge of food, wine and people. Couple that with excellent preperation and service and dining is most enjoyable. What I dislike most about new restaurants is the level of disapointment. Rarely do you find gems like Carlos.

Lunch is Prix Fixe and less than $50, only during December. -Dick

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You're right Ronnie, I am in a groove, and I continued my groove by having lunch at Carlos' Thursday, with Chefgy, and it was superb. A quick outline of the meal:

Grilled Australian Lobster with Mango Coulis

This was our Amuse. It was delicious.

Wild Mushroom Terrine with Gougere, Frisee, Arugula, and Kabocha Squash-Champagne Coulis

After having watched this dish be prepared countless times, I was skeptical about how it would taste. To my suprise, I loved it. It was served with a little profiterole that really added to the dish, along with a little salad.

Maryland Crab Carnoli Risotto with Parmesan Tuile

No one at our table ordered this dish but they sent it out anyway, and I sure am glad they did. Huge chunks of crab with some fried herbs and carrot. Absolutely to die for. And to think that it didn't even appeal to me on the menu!

Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Sweet Corn Bilini, Concord Grape Relish, and Ice Wine Vinegar

I ordered this, and loved it. Ronnie, you may remember the Sweet Corn Bilini from your amuse, but it worked well with this dish as well. Overall, this dish was really solid.

Lobster Bisque with Lobster and Caviar Quenelle

I didn't even try this dish so I can't really vouch for it, but from what I heard, it was quite good.

Montchevre Cheese and Baby Beet Medley with Baby Romaine Tower of Walnut-Dressed Frisee and Baby Arugula Salad

Once again, I didn't even get a taste of this dish because the person who ordered it simply didn't want to share. She sure did rave about it though.

Lychee Sorbet

Cleansed the palate well. On top of that it tasted good!

Herb Crusted Morgan Ranch Kobe Beef with Chestnut-Foie Gras Custard and Huckleberry Gastrique

In my opinion, this was the best dish of the whole meal. My dinner companions both argued adamantly that their's were the best as well, so this is not a fact. The beef just melted in the mouth, and the custard and gastrique were both delicious.

Pan-Roasted Alaskan King Salmon with Asiago Potatoes, Haricot Verts, and a Grainy Mustard Buerre Blanc

This may have been the best salmon I have ever tasted. It was so moist! Unbelievable.

Poached Pheasant Breast with Truffle Mousseline Farce, Baby Vegetables and Thyme-Black Pepper Reduction

I stole a quick bite of this and it was awesome. Thats pretty much all I can tell you.

Vanilla Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries

Really tasty creme brulee. Not served in the traditional Carlos' Canoe. I was dissapointed about that, but it was still great.

Souffle with Creme Anglaise

Really good. I was way too full at this point, but somehow I managed to hold this down too.

Symphony of Desserts

This was a cool way to get a sample of all the desserts. Everything was splendid.

You may have noticed my descriptions getting progressively shorter as the post went on. For this I apologize, but it is now past midnight, and I have a flight to catch at 6 tommorow....anyway, I loved my experience at Carlos' and I hope to be able to go for dinner sometime, as I'm confident it is even better then the lunch experience.

Edited by bentherebfor (log)

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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Thanks for the report, Ben. Sounds like a fantastic meal.

I sure hope that plane made it out of town and that it was headed somewhere warm (or at the very least, somewhere skiable).

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Although Ben managed to get the menu up before me, I concur that the meal was fabulous, my personal favorite was the Pheasent but I stole a bit of Ben's Kobe beef which was spectacular as well.

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I was just talking to my brother about Carlos' two nights ago whilst dining at Moto. He claimed that prior to Moto, Carlos' was the finest meal that he had the pleasure to eat recently. I think I need to give this place another try someday after I forget about my experience at Carlos' in February.

My husband and I decided to dine here this past Valentine's Day, figuring that a temple of fine dining would not stoop to such tawdry tricks as a heart-shaped dessert, etc. All of which are things I deplore. I thought wrong.

I was a little surprised that not only did they require a reservation and a confirmation within 48 hours of our reservation (not that big a deal), they also required a major credit card and promised dire things would happen if we didn't show. Well, I was immediately reminded of that scene out of "L.A. Story" where Steve Martin was told that he "cannot afford zee duck". O.k., whatever, maybe they have been constantly burned by no-shows, although I was somehow hurt that they felt I would do the same.

So, the long-anticipated day arrived, we get to Carlos', and am immediately taken aback by the profusion of mylar balloons tied to each chair. Heart-shaped mylar balloons mixed with regular pink, red and white latex balloons. Two or three per chair to be exact. Also, since this was the first (and only) time I visited Carlos', I was shocked at how close together the tables seemed. Perhaps they crammed in a couple of extra tables for big V-Day since I was pretty sure later that my table was a white-tablecloth covered folding table, but I can't be 100% positive.

Anyway, the meal was good. The sauces were delicious and probably the best part of the whole meal (which I unceremoniously sopped up the remains with bread). There was one dish, however, salmon served two ways, that I was rather unpleasantly surprised by. Cold salmon was served atop of a chilled upside-down glass salad bowl with straight sides (presumably the second part of the dish was underneath). Now, I am not a particularly tall person, and having something, oh, 4 1/2 inches higher than the plate that needed cutting was rather awkward. Not to mention the fact that my silverware was making disconcerting "chink-chink" noises against the underside (being used as the top) of the salad bowl as I cut the salmon. The bowl was also sliding around on the underlying plate as I cut, giving me the brief fantasy that perhaps I was the victim of some sort of Fancy Restaurant Punk'd episode. I was never so happy when the servers took away the hated upside-down salad bowls with a bit of a ta-da! to reveal my next course.

And then there was the dessert. Remember how I mentioned how I hate all things cheesy and falsely sentimental on Valentine's Day? Well, the (included) dessert was indeed heart-shaped. A heart-shaped chocolate cake with a molten center. Not only was it the done-to-death gee-look-Martha the center is liquid flourless chocolate cake, but it was garnished with a raspberry sauce (for that festive Valentine's Day look) and heart-shaped whipped cream piping and bam! lots of powdered sugar on the plate. I mean, come on, really! To add insult to my injured sensibilities, each lady in the room was presented with a box of chocolates and a red carnation at the end of the meal. Gee how thoughtful, you shouldn't have, you really, really shouldn't have.

Maybe I am being a bit harsh, but if there's one thing I hate, it's paying over $300 for an evening of condescension and awkward moments. My husband and I were able to have a good laugh over it a few days later however, after the sting had worn off a bit, so perhaps it was not all a waste. God save us all from Hallmark card inspired ideas of romance being shoved down our throats on holidays. :biggrin:

“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”

-Julia Child

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LMAO! I'm not laughing at you khm, I'm laughing with you. It does sound like a subverted episode of Punk'd. I'm sure you know that "special occasion" nights are not always representative of what a restaurant is really about. From your description, it seems like they may have been "playing to the crowd" a bit that night.

I hope you'll someday get a chance to try Carlos' again and that the experience will match some of the other, more positive ones described here. But, if you've sworn it off for good, who could blame you?

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Another wonderful dinner last night at Carlos'. We were joined by Midwesterner and her husband; they had the degustation, and Greg and I ordered a la carte. Here's what I had:

Wild Burgundy Escargots in Brioche à Tête with Artichoke Hearts and a Roquefort Pernod Cream Sauce - a very rich dish, nicely presented on a round black plate. That cream sauce was especially good for bread-dunking.

Yukon Gold Potato Waffle and House Herbed Smoked Salmon Accompanied by White and Green Asparagus with Red Onion Crème Fraiche - Even though I'm not the World's Biggest Salmon Fan, this dish was a knockout. To read the description is to miss the whimsical presentation. A small, pastry "duck head" was placed atop some salmon salad, and the smoked salmon and greens formed the "body" of the duck. The asparagus flanked the duck on either side, and at the far right of the plate three different colored roe were arranged in a fish-shape. The waffle, by the way, was damn good too! I wish I'd had my camera.

Guava sorbet.

Sautéed New Zealand John Dory and Hawaiian Shrimp on a Bed of Fingerling Potatoes and Doubloon Mushroom Ragout with a Shrimp Tarragon Emulsion - Not seeing John Dory on many menus around here, I had to try this. The fish was perfectly seared, and the mushroom ragout was served in a potato basket.

Dessert consisited of a three-layer chocolate mousse: dark, light, and white chocolate mousses were presented as a three-layerd cylinder. Simple, flavorful, and CHOCOLATE!

We had a Peter Michael Chardonnay to start off, and a 1994 Volnay Red Burgundy after. Wonderful choices!

Carlos' has the type of menu which makes it hard to make up your mind - everything looks so good. And I like that the entire table doesn't have to partake of the degustation, and if you DO order it, you may substitute any dish from the a la carte menu if you prefer.

Edited by gmi3804 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Carlos will again be serving lunch for Valentine's Day this coming Monday. Ballons and all will not bother me. Since it is Monday, there is no corkage charge. I am bringing Pol Roger and my buddy who is in the trade is bringing another bottle of I don't what. I am sure that we and our wives will enjoy ourselves. See you there! -Dick

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lunch was simply sublime! I brought a bottle of Pol Roger and a 375ml 1999 Whelener Sonnenuhr BA, while my buddy brought a Puligny Montrachet and a 1970 Chateau Pichon Longueville. The girls did not drink that much and they drove home.

This was the best lunch and maybe the best meal I have ever had in a restaurant. I generally don't provide menu information but in this case I will.

Carlos & Debbie Nieto, Hosts Ramiro Velasquez, Chef de Cuisine

Valentine’s Day Celebration Luncheon 2005

February 14, 2005

Amuse-Bouche

Iranian Osetra Caviar 1 oz., with Assorted Garnishes

($90.00 Additional)

♥♥♥

Black Trumpet Mushroom Custard with Truffle Consommé in a Puff Pastry Shell

♥♥♥

“Hot and Cold Foie Gras”

Pan-Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Grenadine Infused Caramelized Onion; Medallion of La Belle Farms Cold Foie Gras on Banana Bread with Vanilla Syrup

(Additional Charge $13.00)

or

Mixed Lettuces with Baby Beets, Candied Walnuts,

Champagne-Cranberry Vinaigrette and Cabrioles Cheese

or

Wild Burgundy Escargots in Brioche à Tête

with Artichoke Hearts and a Roquefort Pernod Cream Sauce

or

Pan-Seared “Mano de Leon” Scallops with Seasonal Wild Mushrooms,

Pousse Pierre and an Espresso-Port Beurre Rouge

or

Maine Lobster Bisque with Lobster and Caviar Salad

♥♥♥

Passion Fruit Sorbet

♥♥♥

“Composition of Duck”

Slow Roasted Miso-Coffee Glazed Duck Breast;

Poached Duck Breast Wrapped in Guinea Hen Mousseline;

Duck Confit Rillette and a Kumquat Gastrique

or

Herb Crusted Australian Lamb Loin with

Vegetable Gratin, Creamy Polenta

and a Caramelized Shallot and Sherry Gastrique

or

Butter Poached Australian Lobster Tail Feuilleté

with White Asparagus and a Shellfish-Truffle Emulsion

or

Blood Orange Glazed Wild Striped Bass

with Sautéed Belgian Endive and a Fennel Vin Blanc

♥♥♥

“Sweetheart Cake”

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Gateau Glazed in Chocolate Ganache

♥♥♥

Petits Fours

Any Course May Be Substituted for a Vegetarian Course Upon Request

Degustation Lunch $48.00 Degustation Lunch with Wine $80.00

The amuse was a slice of cold smoked salmon with a piece of potato, cream frache and a tiny dollop of Osetra caviar.

I had the Foie and the Duck Composition which was not only artistically prepared but maybe the best Composition i have ever eaten.

The truffle consomme in pastry was excellent.

Along about dessert, I didn't have a care in the world.

There were no ballons or any type of gaudy decoration. Just great food, pleasing atmosphere and service. -Dick

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Dick,

I appreciate you breaking your personal custom to bring us the details. It really does sound fabulous. Of course, with those wines, you had one hell of a great head start. :smile:

. . . This was the best lunch and maybe the best meal I have ever had in a restaurant. I generally don't provide menu information but in this case I will. . .

Having been blown away at Carlos back in December, I think I understand exactly how you feel.

Thanks again for the write-up.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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