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#91
Posted June 10th 2008, 6:13pm
I must say I'm jealous of those of you who have already experienced GE. I really want to go but I think the boyfriend and I are going to have to wait until the fall. . . our dining-out budget is pretty limited these days.
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#92
Posted June 11th 2008, 9:38am
So last night I ate at GE at the bar. Let me say that my overall impression is that the food seems good, but not fantastic. I'm not dying to go back any time soon. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a joy as is the cocktail menu. For food I had the fried pickles which are fried pickle spears served with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I also had the kobe beef tartare which I thought could have used a little more acid to it, but was otherwise quite good, and the buffalo chicken which was about as bland as can be.
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is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
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#93
Posted June 11th 2008, 11:11am
My wife and I will be heading over tonight for a 7:45 reservation. I'm psyched enough that I'm not being especially productive at work as a result (this probably makes several sad statements about my mental well-being). We'll definately share our impressions tomorrow.
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#94
Posted June 11th 2008, 11:19am
jpschust wrote:So last night I ate at GE at the bar. Let me say that my overall impression is that the food seems good, but not fantastic. I'm not dying to go back any time soon. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a joy as is the cocktail menu. For food I had the fried pickles which are fried pickle spears served with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I also had the kobe beef tartare which I thought could have used a little more acid to it, but was otherwise quite good, and the buffalo chicken which was about as bland as can be.


Which cocktails did you have? I might be hanging out at the bar tonight after another event. I really liked the London Calling, but I'd love to know what else you would recommend.
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#95
Posted June 11th 2008, 11:30am
jesteinf wrote:
jpschust wrote:So last night I ate at GE at the bar. Let me say that my overall impression is that the food seems good, but not fantastic. I'm not dying to go back any time soon. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a joy as is the cocktail menu. For food I had the fried pickles which are fried pickle spears served with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I also had the kobe beef tartare which I thought could have used a little more acid to it, but was otherwise quite good, and the buffalo chicken which was about as bland as can be.


Which cocktails did you have? I might be hanging out at the bar tonight after another event. I really liked the London Calling, but I'd love to know what else you would recommend.
There's a sour on the menu that is incredible as well. The London Calling was fantastic. They've got a nice Cava on the menu if you're into that sort of thing.
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is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
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#96
Posted June 11th 2008, 12:20pm
jpschust wrote:There's a sour on the menu that is incredible as well. The London Calling was fantastic. They've got a nice Cava on the menu if you're into that sort of thing.


We just got back from Spain and I don't think all the cava is quite out of my wife's system from the trip, nevertheless, that's good info, and will make The Red Head (aforementioned, still tipsy wife) very happy.
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#97
Posted June 11th 2008, 3:09pm
Had dinner there last week. Quick thoughts:

(1) Beef tartare. Nice combination of flavors and textures (with the crisp, salty micro-frites a cool garnish), though the beef kind of fell into the background, with all the business atop. Not bad.

(2) Caesar. Presentation differed from what's depicted on the web site. Brioche crouton was twinkie-sized and served to the side of the anchovy-topped romaine hearts, making it difficult/impossible to do anything but eat the components separately. Crouton on its own didn't make much of an impression. Garlic sauce/dressing had me burping up garlic well into the next day. Okay dish, but not ready to be crowned a signature item.

(3) Risotto. Disaster. Interesting idea, but this was an abysmal risotto, overcooked to complete mush. The cheese and garnishes skewed towards heavy saltiness. With better execution of the risotto itself and a little more balance in the garnishes, it could be good. As it stood, it was the only true dud of the evening.

(4) Buffalo chicken. Unexpectedly my favorite course. The fennel/celery slaw, delicious on its own, provided temperature and texture contrast with the tender chicken. Chicken was moist with crisp skin and a good spicy/sweet sauce. Budweiser foam added just enough flavor to negate the spit-like appearance. Blue cheese sauce tied everything together. Not the most ambitious course in terms of flavor pairings, technique, and presentation, but it just tasted damned good (and there's not a thing wrong with that).

(5) Short rib stroganoff (small plate portion). Dressed up comfort food. My only complaints were that the short rib seemed a little lean and that I think it would work better with less short rib relative to the other ingredients. (As it was, it was as if the noodles, mushrooms, sour cream, were garnishes to the short rib, rather than an ensemble.) Still, a good dish.

(6) Spiced Krispie treats. Felt like a work in progress. The textures and flavors (rhubarb, strawberry, clove, cinnamon, condensed milk, etc.) worked for me. But there wasn't balance between the large, blocky, basic rice krispie treats, the sauce, and the sherbet. (The amount of sauce and sherbet seemed just about the right amount for one of the three RKTs, which is how I ate it.) A little more attention to balance and presentation might make this a keeper. For now, it's not one I'd order again.

(7) Peanut butter brownie. Side of caramelized banana fell flat for me, as it was just raw banana with torch-crisped sugar across the top. The peanut butter filled brownie was appropriately moist, but extremely sweet for my palate. Not bad, but it tasted like a kids' dessert, rather than an adults'.

In all, it was a good (if uneven) meal. Service, though informal, was excellent. All of the above came out to about $100, pre-tip. A heck of a lot of food, for the money. Considering that (even with the over-ordering) the meal was less than half of the price of my other dinners in the same trip, it seemed like a pretty good value. Though I wouldn't consider it a "destination restaurant" on the basis of this meal, it would--even without further improvement--be a nice neighborhood restaurant.

Scott

PS After this--my last--meal in Chicago last week, I was a little surprised to realize that of the nearly 100 courses I had over four dinners, none had featured noticeably sour or (with the exception of some collard greens in a GTM course at Moto) bitter elements. Nearly everything was salty and/or sweet. Whenever a potentially bitter or sour ingredient was introduced, it seemed to be clubbed into submission with other sweet ingredients. Odd. As a result, some of the tasting menus left me with the sensation of listening to a symphony with the left half of the equalizer pushed all the way down.
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#98
Posted June 11th 2008, 4:21pm
jpschust wrote:So last night I ate at GE at the bar. Let me say that my overall impression is that the food seems good, but not fantastic. I'm not dying to go back any time soon. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a joy as is the cocktail menu. For food I had the fried pickles which are fried pickle spears served with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I also had the kobe beef tartare which I thought could have used a little more acid to it, but was otherwise quite good, and the buffalo chicken which was about as bland as can be.



is the bar like the one at Avenues where you can chat with the chefs as they are cooking?
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#99
Posted June 11th 2008, 4:31pm
doublesuited77 wrote:
jpschust wrote:So last night I ate at GE at the bar. Let me say that my overall impression is that the food seems good, but not fantastic. I'm not dying to go back any time soon. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a joy as is the cocktail menu. For food I had the fried pickles which are fried pickle spears served with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, I also had the kobe beef tartare which I thought could have used a little more acid to it, but was otherwise quite good, and the buffalo chicken which was about as bland as can be.



is the bar like the one at Avenues where you can chat with the chefs as they are cooking?
No, there is no kitchen table/bar from what I could tell. The bartender was surprisingly calm despite being completely in the weeds. They really could use a service bar.
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is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
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#100
Posted June 12th 2008, 9:13am
After an event with predictably terrible food at Rock Bottom Brewery, the Wife and I went over to Graham Elliot to graze a bit before going home.

We sat in the bar area at one of the communal tables and went through 4 of the bar snacks:

Risotto Bon Bons
Brie Sticks
Fried Pickles
Calamari Curly Fries

The pickles and the calamari were the two standouts. All of the bar snacks are priced at $7. That either gets you 2 risotto bon bons (which are fried balls of risotto with a bit of cheese and bacon inside), two brie sticks (fried cheese sticks, but with brie instead of mozzerella), or baskets of the pickles/calamari. So, the pickles and calamari are probably the best values on the list. The calamari was particularly good, lightly breaded and very tender. To round out the meal, the Wife had a Ceasar salad and I had the spicy buffalo chicken off of the regular menu. I really enjoyed the chicken. The salad was good, but that brioche/twinkie thing really needs more filling. The whole thing dries out without it.

London Callings were the beverages of choice. Just a fantastic summer cocktail.
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#101
Posted June 12th 2008, 10:13am
My wife and I had dinner last night, and concur with the "good, but not great" reviews above. A number of great ideas fell a little flat in the execution. The popcorn with sea salt and malt vinegar that is served in place of bread is a perfect example. Basically, it was just a bowl of ordinary popcorn. But the few pieces that had actually found the vinegar were a great, refreshing, tasty way to start a meal. A few notes before running through the menu: (1) the room and service are great (my wife, who is more design oriented than I, loved the lemon, mirror elements in the dining area); (2) we had a nice cava to start the meal, and a pretty good Rioja with the later courses; (3) while menu items are individually priced, our server told us that the intention is for diners to design their own "tasting" menus by selecting one item from each of the menu's five categories -- there is also a chef's choice tasting menu for $75 a person; and (4) despite the aforementioned, earlier reviews, I was extremely excited for Graham Elliot, perhaps to the point that unattainable expectations dragged down my experience of the actual food (note to self: keep this in mind before you ruin the new My Morning Jacket for yourself, too, dummy).

Here's the rundown:
(1) The caesar salad fell totally flat. The twinkie brioche crouton is a huge disappointment. It turned out to be a dry, bland hunk of bread next to the salad. Actually, each of the elements of the salad was sort of sitting alone, not really mingling with its fellow salad attendees. The one bright spot were the white anchovies, which were tasty.
(2) The risotto was pretty good, featuring pearl onions, fava beans, and bacon (made, according to our serve, entirely in-house). The execution on the rice itself was better than a prior reviewer's experience. And the flavors worked, or at least there was enough of that tasty bacon to cover any flaws.
(3) The BLT style salmon was a mixed bag. The fish itself was indifferent. But its hard to mess up fresh tomatoes with a nice, light pesto dressing. And there was a darn good crispy prosciutto chip on the plate. This was another dish that seemed to demand each element be consumed on its own (try as I might I couldn't assemble salmon, prosciuto and tomato on my fork), but the "salad" and the prosciuto were tasty, so that was ok.
(4) The beef short rib stroganoff was the highlight of the night. The short rib was tender and flavorful. The peppery sour cream was actually shockingly good. There were some really flavorful mushrooms involved as well. Yes, as someone noted, there is a whole lot more short rib than stroganoff, but I wasn't going to complain about getting more short rib than egg noodle.
(5) The peanut butter brownie was tasty -- with chocolate, peanut butter, banana, and malt it would, frankly, be hard to make something that didn't taste pretty good. Subtle and sophisticated? I don't know, but I kind of like piles of chocolately, peanut buttery goodness come dessert time. However, the execution here was lacking. Somehow, for all those great flavors, the whole thing wasn't all that decadent. And the brownie was so dry that my wife said it seemed stale. I'm sure it was not, but stale does pretty well convey its texture. Also, I was somewhere in the vicinity of devastated that the molten carrot cake from the website wasn't on the menu. (A note: the website menu is obviously only representative, and it does give you a sense of the kinds of dishes we saw on last night's menu, but many, if not most, of the dishes on last night's menu were different than those on-line).

Overall, my initial reaction was that I would not rush back. Given the pedigree involved, and the many intriguing sounding (do words on a page "sound" anything -- a topic for a different place) menu items, I'm sure we'll eventually give it another chance. But in the end, we were not blown away.
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#102
Posted June 15th 2008, 11:25am
I've dined at both Sepia and Graham Elliott in the last month, yet am having a hard time coming up with anything to say about either one that hasn't already been said. I have a few comments about the latter, at least, that I don't believe are entirely redundant:

1) To our general surprise, among the entrees fish dishes stood out, head and shoulders above the beef short ribs (which were less good and more costly). I don't think anyone has particularly called this a seafood place, but both a mahi mahi and skate scored among the best things we had (and, indeed, among the best entrees I've tasted in recent memory).

2) Two of the four of us ordered salads at the end instead of desserts. Two of the four of us liked their last course much more than the other two did. I don't think this place is scoring with desserts at all, but the salads were terrific.

3) Friday night was fairly pleasant out and yet that room was still pretty damn warm. I wouldn't bring up air conditioning issues on a food site (it's LTHForum, not LTHVACForum!) but I could see it significantly impacting enjoyment of the meal on a genuinely warm night, as condensation pours off your glasses and into your laps. On the other hand, the men's room was chilled perfectly.

4) I think this is going to be worth checking out again in six months; I think it needs some time to figure out exactly where it wants to fall between Avenues-like fine dining dishes and the almost gastropubby casual feel it has going on. Some dishes seemed too froufy for the room (and definitely too pricey), while the desserts seemed too jokey for the fanciness of the food that preceded it, certainly insubstantial by comparison.

5) Minor but real misstep: bringing us the drink menu, which contains on the back the bar food menu... which is not available to you if you're already sitting at a table. It's silly to have "bar snacks" and "appetizers" and not allow me to have your bar snacks for an appetizer, as if there's some meaningful distinction between the two-- but if you must, be discreet enough to print up some drink menus which don't have the verboten bar snacks on the back!

6) Pigmon was unimpressed by the wine list, which had fairly common stuff on it in his view, but I will say that I thought the recommendations made all matched the dishes very well. Cocktails were good (oddly they fall into two categories, some made at the bar, some in the kitchen; I frankly thought all the kitchen ones were weird-sounding and stuck to the bar ones), though I thought that London Calling tasted of a whole lot of ginger and not much Pimm's, for something supposedly based on a Pimm's Cup. A mistake in the ordering of a second round of cocktails (assumed by us, probably wrongly, to match the specs given with the first order) was handled perfectly, the errant cocktails swept away without another word and quickly replaced. Service is indeed very good-- although:

there is also a chef's choice tasting menu for $75 a person


Not that we heard there isn't.

7) No question Bowles is in that kitchen, hard at work. The couple of times we saw him on the floor at all, he had the purposeful look of a man who has thirty seconds to be polite to some guests before he has to go back to work.

Of specific items I would endorse any salad, the tartare (even though the chunks are too big, but that hickory ice cream is a must-try novelty), the gnocchi which were simple but very well executed, and any fish dish is probably worth a try.
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#103
Posted June 15th 2008, 5:06pm
I had a very enjoyable dinner at Graham Elliot this weekend. There were four of us and with the exception of 4 entrees (2 land, 2 sea), we tried everything on the dinner menu.

Before our meal, we sat in the comfortable bar and enjoyed a few cocktails, along with some bar snacks. I liked the Pisco Criolla and the distinct hit of aromatic strawberry it delivered. But even better was the Rooibos Sour, which was delicious, refreshing and very well-balanced. I loved the Truffle-scented popcorn with parmesan fluff. It was hard to stop eating it. The Fried Pickles with buttermilk ranch were also very tasty. The pickle spears were substantial, as was the breading. They were definitely in the right proportion to each other and even though I enjoyed them, I think they would have been more successful if the entire combination had been scaled down just a bit, size-wise. Spicy Buffalo Chicken wings with bleu cheese were also delicious and our reactions to them reflect just how hard it is to 'get something right,' when it comes to creating a dish. I thought the spiciness was pretty fiery and just about perfect. My wife couldn't handle the heat at all. 2 others in our party thought they were not hot enough. 'Nuff said :wink:

The first dishes to arrive at our table were the Cold appetizers. My favorite of the lot was the GE Caesar salad. It reminded me a bit of the deconstructed caesar salad that chef Bowles used to serve at Avenues, only more evolved. It was pungent and intense. I loved the white anchovies and the decadant brioche twinkies. For me, a close second was the Slow Roasted Beets, which were served with young arugula, hazelnut confit, beet paint and goat cheese. Not only was this a great combination of flavors but the textures -- including the perfectly toothsome beets -- were very satisfying in combination with each other. I liked the Kobe Beef Tartare but the smoke just didn't really work for me. The Cucumber Gazpacho, which I tasted last, suffered because of it. After the explosive flavors of the other 3 cold appetizers, the subtlety of this dish was lost on me and it came off as somewhat bland. Had I tasted it first, which I regret not doing, my reaction would have probably been different.

Next up were the hot appetizers, which constituted my favorite "course" of the evening. The Truffled Potato Gnocchi were near perfection, IMO. Not only was the combination of flavors, aromas and textures stellar but the execution was immaculate. The gnocchi were nothing short of sensational -- light with a perfect density. Creamy Spring Risotto with pearl onion, fava bean, forest mushrooms and homemade bacon was also excellent. This dish delivered great, intense flavors and a wonderful texture that was just slightly al dente. I also enjoyed the Spicy Buffalo Chicken with celery slaw, bleu cheese, hot sauce and budweiser bubbles. This was an elaborate and successful reprise of the bar snack we'd enjoyed earlier. The skin on the chicken was supremely crispy and the bold flavors -- based on the traditional combination -- worked very well together, naturally. Our Seared Sea Scallops, served with pea tendril, pickled carrot, mint leaf and greek yogurt were perfectly cooked, with a crisp, golden-brown sear on both sides. I liked this dish but I'm not a huge fan of mint and that subtle but aromatic note didn't work for me.

My favorite of the 4 entrees was definitely the (Brontosaurus) Pork Prime Rib. I'm not sure that it really sang for anyone else at the table, though. That was fine with me because I got the lion's share of it. I personally love grits and thought the accompanying serving of them, along with the collard greens and watermelon chutney was a fine combination. What I liked most about this dish, however, was the pork itself. As others have posted, it was extremely moist, very well cooked and and nicely fatty. Lean pork is such a bummer. Apparently, chef Bowles agrees with that sentiment. The Hawaiian Mahi Mahi with forbidden rice, bok choy, mango salsa and peanut froth was my second favorite entree. This was a nicely balanced plate and it was very well-executed. I normally am not a big fan of fruit and savory together but the mango salsa was restrained and it highlighted the fish nicely. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the Pan Roasted Skate with baby spinach, polenta cake, raisin chutney and brown butter. I loved all the components of this dish, save for the raisin chutney, which just didn't work for me. But the bites I created of the skate, polenta and spinach were just excellent. I very much enjoyed the Pistachio Crusted Lamb with Israeli cous cous, shaved fennel, kalamata olive and pepper coulis. I thought that maybe it was a touch salty but considering the inclusion of kalamata olive, that made perfect sense.

I insisted that we try all four desserts on the menu, reminding the 3 resistant folks (i.e. amateurs) at our table that we didn't need to finish them but owed it to ourselves to taste them. In the end, I was vindicated because we enjoyed them and pretty much finished them all. I found myself unnaturally attracted to the Gooey Chocolate Brownie with roasted banana, peanut butter and malt ball. I was delighted when the others at the table gave me the green light to finish it. The banana did not blow me away but the other components were delicious together and delivered the satisfaction of a truly comforting dessert. The Roasted Peach Cobbler was outstanding, too and possessed a notable depth of flavor beyond the sum of its parts -- great execution, again. Creme Brulee is such a litmus test for a restaurant because it's so ubiquitous and many renditions are perfunctory and forgettable. This was not the case with the delicious Vanilla version served at Graham Elliot. It was delightful and not only was the creme properly bruleed (to coin a malapropism) but the topping of stewed pineapple, candied ginger and toasted coconut was delicious in its own right. While I enjoyed the Spice Krispie Treats with marinated strawberries, condensed milk and rhubarb essence, I didn't think it was anything to write home about. I'm not sure why this didn't speak to me but it didn't. Oh well, I'll live :wink:

All in all, it was a great dinner in a very comfortable setting. I love the concept of Graham Elliot, which is stated on their business card as 'fine dining redefined.' The casual approach, along with a refreshing absence of fussiness or pretention, immediately distinguish it. Entrees are all served on the same 13" round plates, which were sourced at Ikea. White and Red wine are served in the same glasses. The music, as others have posted, is not what you'd typically hear when dining out -- it's upbeat and fun, and last night was coming right out of chef's iPod, which was interfaced directly into the restaurant's sound system. I think prices are quite fair but not necessarily what one might associate with casual dining. But, given the level of cooking, the quality of ingredients and the location of the restaurant, I didn't feel they were out of line at all. This is a place where one would be equally comfortable in a sportcoat or shorts. It's a neighborhood spot with a great attitude that serves delicious food with a serious pedigree. It's a unique combination of attributes that create a truly distinctive spot, and one that I'm guessing others will soon be rushing to emulate.

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

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#104
Posted June 15th 2008, 5:48pm
Ron,

I'm glad you enjoyed Graham Elliot so much. I was beginning the think I was drugged on my first meal there.
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#105
Posted June 15th 2008, 5:52pm
Glad you enjoyed your meal, Ron. It also sounds like the menu has been adjusted in just the past 10 days or so, since the cucumber gazpacho and spring risotto are both new changes. I'm guessing the new risotto replaced the cheezit one, is that correct?

Glad to see the menu isn't fixed.
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#106
Posted June 15th 2008, 9:09pm
gleam wrote:Glad you enjoyed your meal, Ron. It also sounds like the menu has been adjusted in just the past 10 days or so, since the cucumber gazpacho and spring risotto are both new changes. I'm guessing the new risotto replaced the cheezit one, is that correct?

Glad to see the menu isn't fixed.

I can't say for sure if the new risotto replaced the cheez-it one or if there was another incarnation in between. But it was the only risotto on last night's menu.

Our waiter, Tim, who was a great server, informed us that the menu had changed -- not entirely -- a couple of times. I get the feeling that some initial tweaks are still being made and that other changes will occur on a fairly regular basis. We were told that the lighting in the room, for example, will change 4 times per year. If that's the case, I'm guessing the food offerings will change even more frequently.

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#107
Posted June 16th 2008, 8:50am
ronnie_suburban wrote:I had a very enjoyable dinner at Graham Elliot this weekend...
Pics, or it never happened. :D
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#108
Posted June 16th 2008, 9:03am
yellow truffle wrote:
ronnie_suburban wrote:I had a very enjoyable dinner at Graham Elliot this weekend...
Pics, or it never happened. :D

LOL . . . hopefully, soon. 8)

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#109
Posted June 17th 2008, 9:52pm
wifey and i ate at Graham Elliot this weekend. a few thoughts.

- Service was outstanding and without pretense. The crowd was very different than Avenues, much younger and more familes as well which we really enjoyed.

- Loved the decor as well; nice open space with well spaced tables

On to the food. Overall, everything was at least good and the small dishes in general were a bit better than the large ones. When we go back,

The Standouts--

- Gnocchi-- best I have ever had (and I order it alot); pearl onions and cheese helped make the dish with perfectly cooked potatoes.

- Rissotto-- best in class as well; rice cooked perfectly and the bacon gives good flavor without overpowering the dish

Very, Very Good:

- Buffalo chicken with beer foam: great inventive twist on wings. Chicken perfectly done in the middle with a spicy sauce that doesn't overpower. The blue cheese with celery pieces was a good touch.

- Mahi Mahi: very good as well with pineapple salsa and bok choy cooked perfectly. Presentation on this and all of the other main dishes needed some work IMHO. Everything stacked together isn't a good approach when you have such good distinct flavors.

- Pork chop: As mentioned before; huge portion with very good flavor.

- the truffle popcorn: GE could make a fortune by bagging and selling this. truly addicting. we probably filled up a bit too much on this


Needs a Little Tweaking

- The Caesar Salad. The brioche got changed up a bit on this version of Avenues BLT dish. GE, please bring the old dish back
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#110
Posted June 19th 2008, 9:27pm
Graham Elliot just doesn’t seem like my kind of place. I like fresh, simple seasonal cooking a la the Italian culinary training I've had. Peach cobbler in May? Budweiser foam any time of year? I mean, come on. I had a reservation at Graham Elliot for my birthday last week, but after analyzing the menu I canceled it in favor of what ended up being a great maiden voyage to Vie. Admittedly, I also approached Graham Elliot with some bias – the space GEB took over used to be Allen’s. Allen Sternweiler is a friend, and I loved most everything about his restaurant.

Walking around tonight with some time to kill and a plan to dine solo at the Frontera Grill bar, I walked on past it because the weather was too good to stop. Nostalgia, fate, or whatever took me to Huron St and then to a seat at the bar at Graham Elliot. The meal that ensued obliterated all negative feelings.

Quite simply, and certainly not surprising to those in the know, Graham Elliott Bowles can flat out cook. As good as the gnocchi was at Vie, it’s not in Bowles’ league. Perfect pillowy dumplings that disappear like air, but not before you get the great textural contrast from the crust created by a brief sear in a very hot pan. Crisp-tender grilled asparagus, a gorgeous, bright-orange-runny-yolk fried egg, and a wafting aroma of truffles round out this decadent and memorable dish.

Cute food doesn’t do it for me. Techniques that sound cool but do nothing to better a dish’s flavor or texture annoy me. I’ll even say it: I don’t like Moto. So when I ordered Kobe Beef Tartare – described on the menu as having “hickory smoke, baby watercress, crispy potato, béarnaise gelee,” and received a plate with smoke-infused ice cream and tarragon-flavored panna cotta, I was skeptical. Moto makes Kentucky Fried Chicken Ice Cream. It tastes, quite amazingly, exactly like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Well done! Bravo! …But it sucks. That’s what I expected in this dish from GEB. Boy was I was wrong. The hickory ice cream (how does he do that?!?!) was do damned good on its own, and the temperature, texture, and flavor contrasts on this plate were simply amazing.

Impossibly, the meal got better with dessert. “Spice Crispy Treats” were buttery and robustly flavored with nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon (guesses on my part, not based on menu description or anything I was told). The marinated strawberries it was served with were the best of the season. Obsessed as I am with farmer’s market shopping, I’ve eaten local strawberries literally every day for the last couple of weeks. These were the best I’ve had. Also on the plate was something described as “rhubarb oil”. I have no idea what this was, but it was tart, spicy, and wonderful.

If I have another meal or two like this at Graham Elliott, it just might take the reigns as my favorite Chicago restaurant in this price category.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#111
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:27am
Realizing that this note is way too short and lacking in detail, considering that my group had nearly everything on the menu --

I was part of a group of eight that dined there on Tuesday. Part of our group was running late, so we started out in the bar. Although they do need more bar staff, the staff they have worked hard. My group (i.e. my wife) made it difficult on the server as she could not decide what she wanted (leading to a funny line by the waiter -- "Didn't you and I used to be engaged?"). We ended all ordering Champagne by the glass. I don't recall the producer, but it was a very nice Champagne at a reasonable price (about $15 per glass).

When the rest of our group arrived, we moved on to our table. We did note one downside to GE -- the temp in the area was pretty bad. Our group got up relatively often as a few of the group wanted to smoke, and the non-smokers got up to walk outside to cool down. That was the only downside to the meal.

We started out with a surprise amuse (GEB knew we were coming, and the amuse was a bit of a tribute to one of us). It was a great way to start.

We then ordered two of both the hot and cold. We were in a bit of a haze with all the food, but all of it was exceptional (although I did prefer the Cesear salad at Avenues).

We then moved on and had two of all of the hot. As others have noted, the gnocchi was absolutely amazing. The scallops also were incredible. The other two were very good.

For the main course, I went with mahi mahi. Very good. I didn't try any of the other main courses, but note that everybody was very pleased.

For desserts, we tried everything other than the cobbler. The brownie of course was the highlight.

A note on wine -- they have some great values on the menu. Given the number of people and the number of courses, we counted on the staff to make recommendations. They recommended two Spanish wines. Both were around $50 and both were very good. For dessert, they have some interesting dessert wine selections.

The staff could not have been better.

With regard to the note about Allen's: It is unfortunate that the place did not do better. A lot of us hope the GE does well in part to serve as an anchor in that area for other fine dining places. There seems to be a perception in the few blocks around the art galleries north of Ontario that good restaurants cannot do well. GE was packed the Tuesday night that we went. As long as the food and service continue as it was, it should remain packed.
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#112
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:37am
DML wrote:Although they do need more bar staff...

Perhaps they have heeded this advice already. Last night the bar had an impressive 4 full-time staff working it. They were all as knowledgeable about the food as they were about the drinks, and they all hustled their butts off without looking rushed. I don't think more staff could have fit comfortably behind the bar, so if drink service is still slow in the dining room, it's probably a restaurant design issue rather than a staffing one.
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...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

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#113
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:42am
Hi,

Is there a tasting menu option or is everything selected from the menu?

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#114
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:48am
Kennyz wrote:
DML wrote:Although they do need more bar staff...

Perhaps they have heeded this advice already. Last night the bar had an impressive 4 full-time staff working it. They were all as knowledgeable about the food as they were about the drinks, and they all hustled their butts off without looking rushed. I don't think more staff could have fit comfortably behind the bar, so if drink service is still slow in the dining room, it's probably a restaurant design issue rather than a staffing one.


Drink service was not an issue at the table at all. Considering that we had eight people, I could not imagine better service at the table. It was only while waiting for our group. It wasn't that big of a deal. They have a few tables in the bar area, and an extra server would have been nice. It looks like they went for quality over quantity, since the staff was remarkable. For a new place, that's the way to go. Bring in good people and hope they stay as opposed to hiring anyone and then weeding out good from bad.
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#115
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:49am
Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

Is there a tasting menu option or is everything selected from the menu?

Regards,


It is from the menu, but the design of the menu is to choose one cold app, one hot, one main course, and one dessert.
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#116
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:52am
DML wrote:
Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

Is there a tasting menu option or is everything selected from the menu?

Regards,


It is from the menu, but the design of the menu is to choose one cold app, one hot, one main course, and one dessert.



Per person? That seems like an awful lot of food based on portions I ate. I remember our waiter suggesting three courses per person one hot or cold app, one entree, one dessert.

Best,
Michael
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#117
Posted June 20th 2008, 10:00am
Michael,

Perhaps they looked and saw that our group included a couple of fat guys -- "these people need more food."

Actually, it as hard to judge quantity since our table shared everything but the main course.

The main courses were huge. I did not leave in a food coma like I have after Tru, but I was definitely full.

If it was just my wife and I, we would probably would have ordered one of each category the first time to taste the menu, but one app., one main course, and one dessert should be more then enough quantity for most people.
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#118
Posted June 20th 2008, 10:48am
I'm excited to say that this is my first post after being a fan of this forum for about a year now...

My boyfriend and I dined at GE's last night in honor of his 30th birthday. The place was about 1/2 full when we first arrived, but the place was completely full after we finished our drinks at the bar.

The food was pretty spectacular. We had drinks and apps at the bar first - we ordered the foilipops and spicy tuna balls, as well a Pisco Criolla for me and a Matilda for him. I can't stand overly sweet drinks so the Pisco Criolla was perfect fit for me.

After we were seated, we went a little overboard with our dinner orders and had the following:

Foielipops - Yes, another order, which was overkill based on the fact that we already ate them in the bar. We were told by the waiter that it was compliments of the chef, but we think it was a mistake from the kitchen, since we didn't see any of the other recently seated tables get these.
Buffalo Chicken - Fantastic preparation for a "simple" dish; I don't think I've ever had such perfectly fried and juicy chicken. Eric also enjoyed this, but thought that the $.10 wings near our place didn't fall too far behind.
Calimari Curly Fries - Another mistake from the kitchen that we got to keep. I didn't think this was anything special, but I could definitely see myself ordering this as a late-night snack after having drinks and dinner at someplace nearby.
Cucumber Gazpacho - I expected a thicker soup, but the cucumber broth/water was perfect once you mixed the peekytoe crab tower into the soup. Great summer dish.
Potato Gnocchi - Definitely lived up to the hype from the earlier posts.
Sole - This was my entree and it was recommended by our waiter. It was a great dish with a lot of wonderful citrus flavors that brought out the freshness of the fish, but at this point I was so stuffed from all of the other food that I had about two bites and had to take the rest home.
Pistachio Crusted Lamb - This was my boyfriend's entree, which he said was "the best lamb, no actually, the best meat dish I've ever had at a restuarant." I have to agree - it was perfectly cooked to a medium rare and the spices came through without overpowering the distinct taste of lamb.
Peanut Butter Pot de Creme - Again, I was stuffed, but since we were there for Eric's birthday, we felt compelled to get something to celebrate. I loved the roasted banana.

The service could use some work. They did have a full house last night, but we noticed that several tables of two, including ours, had their orders arrive at the wrong tables. We look forward to them ironing out the kinks and coming back in a few months.

Also, for anyone who wants to try a tasting menu, you should call ahead to request it. At least that's what our waiter told us last night...
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#119
Posted June 20th 2008, 9:17pm
I was at Graham Elliot’s on Tuesday night. The A/C was not fixed in the dining room, but the air was flowing in the ladies restroom. It was slightly uncomfortable while eating and I almost didn’t want to leave the restroom as it was very refreshing.

We started with 2 Bellinis off of the deconstructed drink menu. The “amuse bouche” were quite delightful: peach chutney and panna cotta, geleed champagne, topped with a dehydrated peach slice. It also had some foam on it, but I don’t remember what kind.
The truffled popcorn and our appetizers, the kobe beef tartare and the gnocchi arrived next. I enjoyed the popcorn; we had fun trying to pick out the pieces that burst with truffle and salt. The tartare was okay, I generally expect more of a punch of flavours when I have tartare, like mustard, or pickles, or onion, but the flavour was much more subdued. The combination of the flavours in the gnocchi worked incredibly well together, the creamy yolk drizzled over the pecorino, the crunch of the asparagus, the aroma of the truffle… the only thing that disappointed was the gnocchi themselves. They were very dense and heavy, not pillowy in the slightest bit.

The entrees were the prime rib of pork and the loin of lamb. The pork was magnificent. The syrupy root beer glaze really complemented the tender pork, buttery grits, crunchy corn and watermelon chutney. The lamb was good, but I found my medium rare tenderloin to be rather gray and dry around the edges. I found the dishes to be well executed with good intentions, but not everything added up. We skipped dessert and headed to Hot Chocolate instead.
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#120
Posted June 22nd 2008, 7:51am
LTH,

Very much enjoyed Graham Elliot's, particularly in light of being open two weeks, a solid showing, ranging from just-ok bar snack fried pickles and calamari curly fries to a superb silky smooth seared sea scallop starter that verged on mind altering delicious.

Seared Sea Scallop, pea tendril, pickled carrot, mint leaf, Greek yogurt
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Pork Prime Rib was, in a word, huge, rich med-rare Kurobuta pork nestled on a bed of grits, watermelon chutney counterpoint, BBQ glaze offering pinpoints of crisp caramelization. I did not get a picture that captured the full majesty of Pork Prime Rib, hopefully Steve Z's photo will do it justice.

Gracious to a fault, Graham Elliot was kind enough to give us a kitchen tour. He appears happy, relaxed, a man in his element.

Graham Elliot
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Gleaming new kitchen is set up in independent chef stations, intense focus, economy of motion with the mild disconnect of the Go-Go's in the background.

Kitchen, Graham Elliot
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Though he appears almost cherubic, if a muscular 6'2' 260-lb man is capable of appearing cherubic, with astounding attention to detail, his temper is quicker than one might think. Chef Bowles went WWF on one of his cooks.* Crime, positioning a single haricot vert vertical, as opposed to horizontal, on an entree of Honey Lavender Chicken. As the line cooks ulna was near snapping Chef Bowles screamed "Vertical food is so last decade"

Chef Bowles
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Service was informed, professional and friendly without being intrusive, room visually interesting, if a little noisy, and yes, the air conditioning needs a tune-up. If I had one culinary criticism it would be the occasional use of powdered/liquid smoke, my culinary kryptonite.

A few additional pictures may be found here

Enjoy,
Gary

*Kidding, a joke, the ever genial Graham Elliot posed for the "angry" photo
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