Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Les Nomades Chicago Review
Chef Brent Clarkson and I attended a three day culinary seminar in Chicago and of course we had to try some Chicago restaurants when we were not in class. I had no idea that Chicago was such a huge foodie town; I needed another $3000 and 2 weeks to eat my way through this town!
Our first day there we had a fabulous dinner at Les Nomades in Chicago, a highly rated restaurant I found using the Zagat Reviews. They have maintained a Mobile 4 star rating from 2001-2009. I made the reservations a month in advance. When the manager learned that we were chefs she passed that info on to Chef Chris Nugent who offered us his Twelve Course Dugustation Menu. We also chose a five-course wine pairing and after a few questions from the Sommelier about our preferences we left the wine selections up to him.
From the moment we arrived we were treated like special guests. The service was very professional, all the plates were perfectly presented (6 o’clock position was always correctly placed), waters never got more than half empty, staff was attentive but not intrusive. Exceptional service and food all the way around.
Les Nomades Review – Twelve Course Degustation Menu
Sunchoke soup, truffle foam, gougere
The Sunchoke soup was satiny smooth with good flavor. The foam had a nice texture with good elevation, not the “spit bubble” foam which is also popular but which I find unpleasant to look at. The gougere added a contrasting texture to the dish… I think it was filled with greyere?
Three preparations of smoked salmon, celery root, fennel, preserved Meyer lemon
This was a conceptually cool plate presentation. Loved the three presentations on one plate. Up front is a lox style smoked salmon over parsley pesto. Next is a tartar variation. And in the dish is square-cut smoked salmon.
Roasted quail, spiced beluga lentils, grain mustard, locally grown apple
This dish is my favorite presentation. The main components are set slightly off-center leaving a lot of white space on the right. You have a disk shape and a line… simple yet elegant. I’ve already played with a duo of King Salmon and Lamb Chop presented in a somewhat similar manner.
Butter poached Maine lobster, sweet corn ragout, sea beans, tarragon lobster jus
Butter poached lobster must be cooked correctly so as to not make it tough (over-cooked). This dish was perfectly prepared, tender and sweet. Sea beans can be very salty with a natural sea water flavor. These were lightly cooked which decreased their natural salinity making them a nice match for this dish.
Veal sweetbreads, wild mushroom risotto
Wonderful caramelization on the Sweetbreads, making them crunchy on the outside but tender on the inside giving it a wonderful contrast of texture. Just enough risotto to complement the dish but not bulk it up with unnecessary starch.
Heirloom tomato salad, fennel, mache, Roquefort cheese, Minus 8 vinaigrette
Three or four varieties of heirlooms were used in this salad along with Minus 8 vinaigrette. I hadn’t heard of Minus 8 before so here’s the story in brief. It is produced in Niagara, Ontario Canada and is named for the temperature at which the grapes are harvested; -8 Celsius. Their marketing states, “Minus 8 Vinegar is characterized by mouth-watering acidity, natural sweetness, balance in taste, ripe fruit and wine flavors, and a roundness and depth from years of aging in French Oak.” Chefs who use it on their menus include Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and Tom Colicchio. You can purchase Minus 8 from Amazaon.com Minus 8 Vinegar (6.76 ounce)
Loup de mer, lobster ragout, preserved Meyer lemon, Cognac jus
Loup de mer usually refers to Sea Bass which can be a generic name for several white fleshed, mild flavored fish but I’m not sure which variety was used. This was yet another well balanced course, the fish was tender and juicy and the flavors combined well to elevate the entire dish. The Parisian vegetables added a nice visual contrast.
Look at the way the venison is cooked… a perfect circle of doneness all the way around and beautifully rare-medium rare in the center. It is presented over Israeli cous cous and I think it was a parsley pesto in the center with roasted red & yellow bell peppers.
I overlooked getting a picture of this course!
Fresh fruit soup
I remember the fruit soup being refreshing, but I don’t remember the flavor profiles! We were about 3 1/2 hours into dinner and had consumed a fair amount of wine and bourbon by this point. I had pretty much gone into full indulgence of culinary pleasures, screw everything else!
Pastry Assortment chocolate mousse cone, lemon tart, coconut crème brulee and caramel ice cream
WTH! I didn’t get a picture of the dessert course either! I saw it and dove right in… it was delicious.
Finally, back on track! For the closing to the dinner we were presented an assortment of house-made petit fours. In American culture, this seems like dessert twice and is not part of most menus. But in classic European restaurant service, this course is served after dinner with tea, coffee, cordials or dessert wines.
It took us four hours to complete dinner at a leisurely pace. We met a wonderful “foodie couple” who were professional musicians in the orchestra and they shared some info about Chicago. We enjoyed conversation with them through-out the night and they actually called a chef friend of theirs to arrange dinner for us if we had time the following night, but unfortunately this didn’t work into our schedule.
I very much enjoyed my experience at Les Nomades and would recommend it to anyone. I’m not sure if the 12 Course Degustation Menu is always available but of course they have a regular ala carte menu.
Our total bill for two before tax and tip: $506.50
Wine Pairing: $130.00