Anything new in tasting menus?
I am a sucker for tasting menus. Anything new out there in the realm of tasting menus? My favs are sweets & savories, schwa, or any tasting menu that offers good bang for the buck. Any hidden gems out there that do tastings or great set menus?
I can think of several places to recommend that offer tasting menus. All are absolutely wonderful, among the very best food in the Chicago area. And there are some reasonable values, too.
Avenues is one of the top tables in town. When I was there in March, they offered 3- or 5-course selections from the menu, or a 10-course tasting menu. I understand that they have now gone to 5-, 10- and 15-course menus. Not inexpensive, though, but Chef Bowles is at the top of his game. http://chicago.peninsula.com
For good "bang for the buck", I recommend Oceanique, in Evanston. Great seafood, as well as soups, desserts, just everything. Also a great wine list. Mon-Fri they offer a three-course tasting menu for $42. They also offer a six-course tasting menu for $75, with wine pairings for $48. You can also order a la carte from their menu. www.oceanique.com This week and next week, Oceanique is participating in the "Dine Out Chicago" benefit, which is similar to their weekday three-course deal; for details see www.usadineout.com/Markets.asp?mid=4
One more place, for a top chef without paying huge prices, is Tallgrass, in Lockport. The food is heavenly, and the prices are reasonable for the caliber of food. Each person orders three ($48), four ($58), five ($68), or seven ($75) courses from these items. With the 3-, 4-, and 5-course options, one course is specified (by you) as an entree and comes in a larger portion size; with the 7-course option, all are smaller portions. www.tallgrassrestaurant.com You can read about my recent dinner there at www.chowhound.com/topics/403032 I consider it the best meal I have eaten so far this year, and I've eaten at some wonderful and highly-regarded restaurants.
Finally, Everest still offers their three-course pre-theater special for $50, 5:00 and 5:30 every day they're open except Fridays. www.everestrestaurant.com
I'll vouch for an outstanding meal at Avenues. Perhaps the best I've ever had in Chicago. But it was $650 for two, 10 course meal with wine pairings. Whether any meal is worth that much is a question you will need to answer for yourself. In retrospect, it seemed like a lot of money for a meal. I'll also say that the atmosphere is a little stiff, and it was only a quarter full when I was there - something to do with the price tag maybe? The dining area is one big room, compared to say Trotters which is broken up into several smaller rooms, so if only eight tables are full it still feels lively. Or Schwa which only has 8-10 tables.
In fact, I think Schwa has the best value for price of any tasting menu in town. If you can get a reservation.
There is value, and there is value. ;) Avenues is one of the top restaurants in town, heck, in the country. In March, their 3-, 5-, and 10-course menus were $90, $120, and $160, respectively. Add on tax, tip, and beverages, and wine/alcohol which is the biggest variable, and what you spend can go from as little as $125-150 per person to as much as $300-400 or more. I had the 10-course and spent $250/pp. Is it worth it? That depends on your taste and whether you think a more expensive place is worth more than a less expensive place. I think Avenues is worth it, because it is a unique experience and one of the best restaurants in the city. Is Schwa or Sweets and Savories a better value than Avenues? Maybe, maybe not. I spent $100/pp at S&S a few weeks after I went to Avenues. S&S was good, but Avenues was far more memorable.
These days, more and more places offer tasting menus. These include some excellent restaurants, and some that, well, are not known for the excellence of their food.
Green Zebra also does a fun 5 course tasting menu. What is nice about their tasting, is they will do different dishes for each individual so you can taste a bunch. They also have wine pairings, or a non-alcoholic pairing. It is a great little tasting!