Jackie: We want to talk a little more about Chicago. Our weeklong summer visit was so outstanding; it’s hard to let go of our thoughts. And the dining! If you want a real, knock-your-socks-off steak, it’s hard to go wrong in Chicago. I melted at a steak house called Rosebud. Basically memorably-delicious and over abundant.
So, one last set of memories of the windy city. We want to be sure you know about super superb TRU, a restaurant that is a true culinary happening. I Googled each part-ner/owner of TRU, wanting to know who these gifted people are, where they are from and how they came to the top of this competitive game. So, with ladies first, fascinating Executive Pastry Chef Gale Gand (she baked with Julia Child!), Chef Partner Rick Tramonto (he started at Wendy’s!) and Rich Melman (his “lettuce entertain you” empire set the scene for Chicago’s culinary revolution). Read all about them—such rich experience and vision. A snip from the New York Times agrees: “What is most captivating about TRU is the irrepressible creative energy of Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand, the partners who own the restaurant. Mr. Tramonto oversees the savory side of the menu, while Ms. Gand handles desserts; both create delicious original dishes that look as if they belong in an art museum.”
Now, to my fanciful spouse…
David Conjures Up: The magician works best on a bare stage—nothing to distract the audience from his sleight of hand. And that’s the way it is with Rick Tramonto, master of the magic, entertaining us from his kitchen at his Chicago restaurant, TRU. The room is minimalist, understated elegance, all black and white with subtle spotlights focused on the tables. The magic is in the surprise, the tasty trickery and a sleight of the tongue in the cooking. Case in point: my smoked sturgeon “caviar,” avocado, hazelnut. It is served in a tin that looks like the real thing but it is actually the master’s alchemy that has transformed boiled milk flavored with the sturgeon into beluga-sized pearls of “caviar.” It mystifies, astounds and satisfies. Bravo, Tramonto! And another big bravo to TRU’s General Manager, Serge Krieger, who worked his magic to make us comfortable and well cared for. After our fabulous dinner and perfectly-matched wines, Serge took us on a wonder tour of the immaculate and brilliantly-organized kitchen. Here is where the chefs store their tricks of the trade, where they pull the rabbit (or more to the point, the Kobe beef) from the magician’s hat, and make it a feast to remember.
Jackie Recaptures: There is awe and emotion in the tastes at TRU that defy description. In a molded silver spoon, my fragile bite of a cauliflower sphere that melts into aroma, sea trout roe with a twist of salty-sweet orange offered a texture not yet named. All I really know is I could have had an entire meal, spoon after spoon of this dream starter. Here is a mere hint to the stimulating meal: perfect wine. Nigella seed-cured salmon, David’s sturgeon fantasma and Thai butternut soup (with mussels, lobster, green curry and whipped coconut). Frog legs (garlic, carrot, watercress}, quinoa-crusted scallops (broccoli, chanterelle, peanuts), salt-crusted Cervena Venison (cocoa, olive, blood orange), braised short rib (unagi, scallion pistou, miso emulsion) and desserts that followed pre-desserts and were followed by a large rolling tray laden with sweets of many tastes and textures, plus homemade lollipops.
The chefs in the spacious and orderly kitchen were a good-natured crew, who all should have a superb future in the world of fine cuisine.
So, perhaps TRU’s is a microcosm of Chicago. So much diversity, smart design, art, simplicity, complexity, beauty, engaging people, comfort and full of surprises. I’m hoping you and yours take a Chicago visit, and that your wishes come TRU.