Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Wintertime is typically the slow season for restaurants, so several years ago, the city of Chicago started restaurant week, an event in which a restaurant will offer a three course prix fixe menu that will typically be at a discount from regular prices.  This year, there were over 300 restaurants that participated with lunch prices at $22 and dinner prices at $33 or $44 (plus drinks, tax, and tip).  I like to use restaurant week as a way to explore restaurants that I haven't yet visited.  In addition to the prix fixe menus, many places will also often offer their regular menu in the event that diners might be interested in something else.  While I will frequently stay with the prix fixe menu, I will occasionally order from the regular menu if there is something that strikes me there.  The first restaurant that I visited this year was Travelle, located in the Langham Hotel on the Chicago River.  I have never been to Travelle, but I have tasted a few of their offerings when they have been at various benefits.  I liked what I have had so I was very interested in the restaurant offerings.  The hotel is easy to find, being in the downtown area, but the restaurant entrance is not obvious.  There is an area that looks like a waiting area off the main lobby with a bank of elevators.  The restaurant is on the second floor opposite a lounge overlooking the Chicago River.  The dining room is large and modern looking with an open kitchen.  Opposite the kitchen is the wine rack which is well lit and enclosed in glass.  The chairs were beige padded leather and matched the general color scheme of the space.  The prix fixe at Travelle was $44 and offered a couple of choices each for appetizer, entree, and dessert.  For my dinner, I started things off with Chestnut Soup with Sherried Pears, Peeky-Toe Crab with Rouille Sauce (a sauce consisting of Olive Oil, Bread Crumbs, Garlic, Saffron, and Chili Peppers and served with seafood) and garnished with Paprika Sauce.  The soup was creamy and nutty, with some tang from the pears.  The pears were very flavorful and didn't have the grit that is normally found with fresh pears.  The crab and rouille sauce was very flavorful and added it's flavors and textures to the soup.  The paprika sauce contributed a nice spicy finish.  It was a great start to the meal and charged me with anticipation.
For my entree, I went with a dish that could very well be called comfort food with an exotic spin.  I had a Grilled Pork Chop with Mashed Potatoes, Caramelized Treviso (a red, spear shaped variety of Radicchio), and Sumac Barbecue Sauce.  The pork chop was tender and juicy.  The mashed potatoes were very smooth and had a nice garlicky finish.  The treviso added some texture and sweetness, and the barbecue sauce had earthy, tangy and spicy flavors that tied everything together.
Dessert was kind of funny because it sounded better than it looked, but it also tasted better than it looked.  This is not to say that it looked bad, it just looked kind of boring.  Dessert was a Cherry Pistachio Tart with Housemade Whipped Cream.  The tart had a pronounced pistachio taste.  It was served with cherries and crushed pistachios, but it was also cooked with cherries and pistachios.  It was very cake-like which, while good, is not something that I expect of a tart.  In any case, it tasted good and the whipped cream added a slightly sweet finish.  Overall, I enjoyed my dinner.  The food was good and adventurous, the space was clean and modern, and I would happily return.


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