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GREAT Dinner at Michael in Winnetka!

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Last night I had a SUPERB dinner at Michael in Winnetka. 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 last night, 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 last night:

AMUSE BOUCHE:

Mini cream puffs (pate a choux) filled with gruyere cheese

APPETIZERS:

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)

ENTREES:

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

DESSERTS:

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.

Michael
Proprietor: Michael G. Lachowicz
64 GREEN BAY RD.
WINNETKA IL
847-441-3100
http://www.restaurantmichael.com

Dinner
Tuesday-Thursday - 5;30-10:30pm
Friday-Saturday - 5:30-11:30pm
Sunday - 4:30-9:00pm

(also open for lunch three days a week during December)

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  1. I went back to Michael for lunch today, and it was as wonderful as my previous visit. They are currently open for lunch on Fridays only. It's also worth noting that they have an excellent three-course deal, offering any appetizer, any entree, and any dessert for $35. Or, you can order a la carte, of course.

    Today, I had the appetizer of a medallion of seared foie gras over foie gras and mushroom strudel, with huckleberries and brioche toast, as an appetizer; steamed mussels in crab bisque with sauteed shrimp as an entree; and a hot and cold chocolate dessert assortment consisting of mini-portions of chocolate souffle, chocolate pots de creme, and a chocolate pecan tart. Everything was fantastic!!!

    Michael continues to turn out food as good as any casual fine dining restaurant in the entire Chicago area, and at prices less than many comparable restaurants. This is a real gem on the North Shore.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Has anyone been to Michael's for dinner lately? I am interested in taking my husband there for a birthday dinner and would be interested in getting more recent feedback.

      1. re: spectra21

        I was there in March or April and it was terrific. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

    2. We ate at Michael again tonight, and I gotta tell you, they knocked it out of the park again. Just OUTSTANDING. How good was it? This was one of the two best dinners I've had in the past three years (and the other, at Alinea, cost several times as much). It was AMAZING.

      When we were seated, we were served two small grugeres (melted cheese puffs) that were yummy. One appetizer was the foie gras appetizer noted in the original post above (seared foie gras over foie gras and mushroom strudel), although it is now labeled "foie gras served two ways" on the menu. The other was a giant sea scallop served over a spinach-filled crepe. Both were superb. But wait, there's more! Next was a very nice frisee salad with pecans and Asian pears. ... And things just kept getting better and better as the meal went along. One entree we had pre-ordered after receiving an e-mail from Michael's mailing list. It was a Dover sole and Maine lobster duo, with half of a 1.5-pound Dover sole (2 filets) and half of a 1.25-pound Maine lobster (claw, tail and arm meat all shell free), served with Grilled thin asparagus and Drawn lobster butter over creamy polenta. Imagine the most tender, moist, and delicious Dover sole you've ever had in your life. Now imagine the most tender, moist, and delicious lobster meat you've ever had in your life. THAT'S how good this was. And oh yeah, the creamy polenta was equally amazing, with a silky smooth texture and a great taste (it had some goat's milk cheese in it). The other entree was just about as amazing; it consisted of a stuffed breast of hen, amazingly tender, moist, and delicious, and a breast of Pekin duck, perfectly cooked and fanned out on the plate in ultrathin slices, with virtually no fat to trim off, served alongside Door County cherries. But wait, there's more! We had two desserts, and they were just as amazing as the entrees. One was a candied spiced peach served over a shortbread cookie, with a small scoop of spicy roasted orange sherbet placed on a French fig. The other was a "mango charlotte" that didn't seem like a charlotte but was easily the best dessert I've had all year. It was a buttery rich moist cake, almost like an upside-down cake, with chopped mango in the middle, and a small scoop of coconut ice cream on top, and it was just wickedly sinful. Amazing. (The waiter told us how it's made but I won't spoil the fun!) A little bit of chopped macadamia in the corners of the plate was a nice touch for this exquisite dessert. And our waiter also brought complimentary chocolate truffles, but even though they were very good, they were only the final touch on a meal that was already phenomenal.

      Michael is also reasonable in price for such high quality food. It's $48 if you order three courses and $55 if you order four courses (the foie gras dish had a $6 supplement, the only supplement I recall seeing on the menu).

      Michael is a very, very special restaurant, IMHO the very best in the suburbs and the very best in the Chicago area aside from a handful of uber-expensive big-name restaurants in the city. Those who haven't been there are really missing something special. If you live in the city, it's easy to get there on the Metra commuter train (see www.metrarail.com ); the Indian Hill stop on the Union Pacific North line is just a few steps from the restaurant, and the trains run well into the evening.

      HOORAY for Michael!!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Good to hear. I haven't been to Michael in many, many moons. Glad they're still hitting the long ones.

        1. re: chicgail

          RE Michael: Wow - I've lived in Wilmette for 6 years and I'd never really heard of this place. (living under a rock I guess!) Agree with all the positives mentioned here. My friend and I eat in the city (where he lives) a lot and pay a googob of money for some really ordinary food sometimes. This place was worth every penny. It's a grown-up sort of restaurant - very good service, quiet, dignified (not a scene by any stretch) but boy was the food great. We only had two dishes- a house salad and a halibut plate that was perfection. It had beet-flavored rice, fava beans, morel mushrooms and lots of other flavors that I am forgetting about. It was one of the best plates of food I have had in ages. Before you start they bring a fine little cheese puff, plus a little chocolate truffle at the end - it was the perfect amount of food and every bite was wonderful. $$ - but who cares when it's this good?

      2. We went back to Michael tonight, and had yet another amazing dinner. I'll try to keep it brief, but I'll note first that every dish was simply outstanding yet again.

        Dinner started with his complimentary gougères, served nice and hot and oozing with cheese in the middle. Yum! We had the seared diver scallop served over corn blinis. The soup was the best of all these great dishes - a fresh spring pea soup with king crab and a few small poppyseed-coated puff pastry croutons. It tasted like peas fresh from a farmstand, and was one of the best soups we've ever had in our lives. We had a salad nicoise with seared tuna. Entrees were hard-seared Chilean sea bass over a bed of goat cheese polenta, and this was pretty great too, with a slight crispiness on the outside of the fish, and a really smooth polenta without being overpowered by the goat cheese. Dessert was a vanilla duo, of crème brulee and panna cotta, and the presentation on the plate was sheer artistry.

        Michael is still turning out some of the very best food you'll find anywhere in the Chicago area. Just go!!!

        1. Went to michael the other night...thought the food was unbelievably good. Have never been before and been meaning to go and it didnt disappoint. Did the 7 course tasting menu which I think is a steal for $75. Everything was great, only problem I had was the service in terms of food coming out of the kitchen started out really slow...one of my all time pet peaves. First 2 courses probably took 50 min to come out, after that hiccup, each course was about 12-15 min, much more satisfactory. Told my wife that luckily those first 2 courses were fantastic since I was pretty upset that it was so slow. Needless to say, afterward we both thought that it was one of the better meals we've had in a long time ( and we have eaten at all the "happening" spots in the city) and I think if the restaurant was in the city instead of the burbs it would get much more praise for the cuisine and be much more expensive I will definitely be going back, its a true gem in the north suburbs for those of us who live up here and would for sure be a good destination spot for those in the city. Have to agree with nsxtasy..GO!!!

          1. Your review is dead on!!! I have been recommending Michaels to many of our friends and each and every one of them who has dined there has raved about the food and the service. So I have been stocking up on Groupons and Restaurant.com coupons for my next visits.

            And the restaurant is very conversation friendly and they occasionally feature wine dinners which have been outstanding. Nice to see that I am not alone in my opinion.