Like the catwalks of Paris and Milan, menu previews are a chance for culinary designers to strut their wares and set their trends each season.
As we look toward autumn, when meats get darker, vegetables grow starchier, sauces thicker and flavors bolder, chefs are dressing and lining up their latest fashions for diners. I’ve been given a peek into what’s afoot in the kitchens at graham elliot, which I recently visited.
Come September 15, the restaurant will be rolling out a new menu. A few of the old signatures, like the “g.e. caesar” salad and “spicy buffalo chicken” remain. But Bowles will also be reviving what I believe were some of his most thrilling creations at Avenues, like “pumpernickel crusted sturgeon” with turnips, cabbage, and saurkraut sauce.
I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the apple/cheddar risotto that followed Bowles from the hotel to the new restaurant, and I’m happy to see that it’s getting replaced with the “baked potato bisque,” which I loved so much at Avenues.
Always touting the stylishness of sugar, Bowles says he’ll also be putting up a “maple roasted scallops” (which, sound fabulous – it comes with butternut squash, melted endive, black walnuts and brown butter) on the “hot” starter menu. The “roasted monkfish wellington” (with lentils, carrots, leeks, and truffle puree) from the “sea,” and “honey lacquered duck” (with chevre risotto, brussels sprouts, poached pears and Cabernet sauce) from the “land” are probably the biggest appetite teasers for me in the main course category. The advent of game season brings in “venison osso buco” to replace the “short rib stroganoff.” And say good-bye to that behemoth “pork prime rib,” which I adored so much (it will be replaced by “slow roasted pork” with a similar treatment), and say hello to foie gras, which will figure on the “cold” starters menu in mousse form.
Desserts will see three new additions; only the “molten carrot cake” remains from the summer repertoire. Look forward to apples, spices, and of course, as always – chocolate.
Prices hold steady for now – ranging from upper-twenties into mid-thirties for main courses.
Ever the fashionista, Bowles will extend his design changes beyond the plate: the dining room lights (which disarmed my camera on my visit) will change to colorful mix of red, yellow, orange and brown to mimic the autumn palette. As I understand it, the mirrored window-box displays will see the bright summery lemons depart – perhaps pumpkins to come? And, for the olfactory portion of your experience, the restaurant will be mulling spiced cider at the entrance. Sensory overload? You’ll have to tell me. Unfortunately, I won’t make it to Chicago next month.
Lastly, oenophiles, the wine list has been augmented, and from what I’ve been told, improved. Also, graham elliot has hired two new servers, both from top tables in Chicago and New York.
Note: The restaurant will adjust its hours of operation to Monday-Saturday 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. The restaurant will close on Sundays.