Michael in Winnetka
Went last night and, as I'd read something here previously, want to repay the favor with a candid opinion.
We were underwhelmed. The food was excellent, everything tasted great and the portions were reasonable (esp considering the price!) but there were several little things that kept this from being a 4 star expereince (as I'd expected based on all the glowing reviews in the press lately).
Example: We ordered a bottle of white for the appetizer course and the waiter brought out the wrong vintage year. When my bro (the wine expert among us) commented on that, the waiter kind of brushed him off: "we ran out of the '03 and now we're onto the '04, eh, they're the same." HUH?
A few other things such as spilling mashed potatoes on someone's sleeve, bringing the wrong dessert (though the wrong one was better than the one ordered!), very slow to refill coffee--don't want to be too picky but we just expected the next level.
That said, food was excellent, foie gras worthy of the praise from Phil Vettel last week, venison was tender, not very gamey, chocolate souffle terrific.
Michael came out to greet us as we were leaving, very personable guy. My bro asked about something he'd eaten at Le Deux Gros and Michael told him to call on the cell phone prior to the next visit and he'd make it special if it isn't on the menu!!
We'll go back, maybe just need some slightly lowered expectations.
I had dinner at Michael in December. It was a SUPERB dinner in every respect. Simply OUTSTANDING.
First, I should qualify what I mean by these superlative terms. I've dined at many of the most highly regarded restaurants in the Chicago area and elsewhere. They are almost always GOOD, with tasty food and attentive service. For me, the difference between GOOD and GREAT is, at a great restaurant, every single dish, every single bite, is an absolute delight, so delicious that it makes you roll your eyes and swoon. There are very, very few places that I would consider GREAT. Based on my dinner, Michael was definitely among them. It is not an exaggeration to say that this was one of the very best dinners in my entire life.
Two of us arrived first, and the other two in our party got slightly lost; the wait staff could not have been more gracious, notifying us when our guests had called to get directions. (The visibility of the restaurant from Green Bay Road is somewhat limited, since there is no sign and the entrance faces the parking lot, not the street.) The dining room has an atmosphere of casual, relaxed elegance, which carried through our entire meal. This made the entire experience that much more special! As noted in the Metromix listing, business casual attire was entirely appropriate (fewer than twenty percent of the men wore jackets and ties, although one would not feel out of place thus attired). Our waiter was joking with us when he brought one or two of the items. Michael himself came by all the tables and knew exactly what we had ordered. The entire atmosphere was one of celebration, but without any pretension or stuffiness.
Again, the food was HEAVENLY! Every bite of every dish was simply divine. The descriptions on their menu sound good, but so do those at many restaurants; if you think of how good each dish could possibly be, if it were exceptional, that's how good everything was. Here's what we had:
Mini cream puffs (pate a choux) filled with gruyere cheese
A medallion of seared foie gras over foie gras and mushroom strudel
A duo of warm crab gateau and orange dusted scallop with a sweet curry cream
A rosette of house cured smoked salmon on a warm potato cake with whipped chive, citrus crème fraiche
Truffled potato "cappuccino" (soup)
Duo of grilled filets of salmon and wild escolar with morels in cream sauce
Duo of braised short ribs and sauteed tenderloin of beef "Grand Mere" with potato gratin
Duo of Moroccan braised leg and grilled rib chops with toasted Fregola di Sardinia (cous cous)
Filet of Japanese black cod in a fine brioche and thyme crust with heirloom tomato "Béarnaise"
Creamy mashed potatos for all
Duo of petit fallen chocolate soufflé "Les Deux Gros" and hot chocolate "Michael" with cookies (one each of biscotti, shortbread, and pfefferneuse)
Apple upside down tart with caramel and nutmeg ice cream
Classic vanilla bean crème brulee.
Maple Mascarpone cheesecake with maple caramel and Linzer shortbread
vanilla creme brulee
When our waiter overheard that one member of our party was celebrating her birthday, he brought a plate of truffles with a birthday candle in one of them (without any prompting on our part).
The dinner was also surprisingly reasonable in price, considering the quality of the food. Appetizers were $9-15, entrees were $26-29, and desserts were $8-9. With modest beverages, our total came to $70 per person including tax and tip.
Proprietor: Michael G. Lachowicz
64 GREEN BAY RD.
I was also there in December with a party of six for a celebration and we had many of the same dishes. One dish that I had that was not mentioned was medallions of venison with sweet potatoes au gratin and chestnut mousse. Certainly the best venison dish I have ever eaten. I also thought the food was exceptional and a terrific value. The only negatives were the ordinary dinner rolls and the less than impressive desserts. I had the apple tart and could not discern any nutmeg flavor in the ice cream. That said, I can't wait for another reason to return.
I've been to Michael a few times since it opened. I think that all of the comments are correct...great food...ok atmosphere...sometimes the service is nuts. If you go on an "off" nite and the dining room isn' t too crowd you can get a great French meal for a very reasonable price. Agree with the comment about the dinner rolls. Was there once and they were stale.