If there was one meal I was really looking forward to while I was in Chicago, it was dinner at Grace. Opening back in December of 2012, the restaurant earned its third Michelin star only a couple years later. Head chef and owner, Curtis Duffy has made quite a name for himself. He was a former chef at world-renowned Charlie Trotter’s until its closing in 2011, and he was also the chef de cuisine at Alinea. He has even starred in his very own documentary, For Grace.
I arrived for my reservation right on the dot. I was actually dropped off on the other side of the building complex and just walked around the corner. The exact location was a bit confusing on the GPS. I actually recognized the street from the documentary which I watched on Netflix one night.
I was immediately shown to my small table off to the side of the dining room. The moderately lit room was simple, yet elegant. You could tell that a lot of effort went into every detail of the place. I know they went through quite a process just to select the perfect chair for diners. Well they did a good job because it was one of the most comfortable chairs I ever sat on.
Gray cloths draped the tables with a soothing dim light fixture at the center of each one. When it comes to the tasting menu, you have two options – Fauna or Flora. Flora is completely vegetarian and Fauna features meat and seafood. Both menus cost $235. For that amount, I definitely want some meat and seafood.
I’m usually hesitant whether to do the wine pairing or not. The amount of wine served usually ends up being a bit too much, the price is a bit steep, and the selections are underwhelming. I figured I was only going to have a chance to dine here once and I might as well go all out. So, I went for it. It costs an additional $125.
The pairing began with a nice champagne.
The amuse bouche consisted of artichoke done 3 ways.
There was a whipped version that was light and airy.
The second version had artichoke and okra in a nice broth.
The third version had a dollop of artichoke sorbet garnished with a crispy artichoke chip. This was my favorite one out of the three.
Then the tasting menu began. The first course was rabbit with morel, smoked paprika, and green garlic. It was presented in a small container with a gold lid.
I was told to pull back the lid, lick the underside of it, and enjoy the rabbit and morel inside that have been slightly smoked. Yes, you will be instructed on how to enjoy each course.
For the next course, a 2014 Weingut Max Ferdinand Richter Riesling “Estate” was served.
The next dish was actually from the Flora menu. It had Hon Shimeji mushrooms, spring onion, black garlic, and blooms.
We were back on track with the most famous dish on the menu – the Alaskan king crab with sudachi, cucumber, and lemon mint.
The presentation was beautiful with an edible glass cover perfectly decorated with dollops of cream, trout roe, and lemon mint.
I took my spoon, tapped the glass, and it shattered to reveal the poached king crab inside. It was sweet and sour, and the sugar glass added some sweetness. Interesting.
The third wine was a 2015 Cederberg Wines Bukettraube.
At this point, the first bread was served – semolina bread.
It was served along two types of butter – cow milk butter and green herb butter
The third course was presented on a really cool plate. It was bigeye tuna with caviar, cashews, coconut, and Miner’s lettuce.
I was a fan of this dish. Although I’m not sure if the cashews really added anything to the flavor, but definitely provided a crunch.
The fourth wine was a 2003 I Doria di Montalo “AD”.
I couldn’t help but watch the kitchen while eating. With its big glass window, it was inviting everybody to watch the action.
The fourth dish was squab with beets, sunflower seeds, and mâche. Mâche is an edible salad green also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce.
The squab was very tender. The nutty and salty sunflower seeds went well with the slightly tart sauce.
Another bread was placed on my bread plate. It was a dill and roasted potato bread. I wasn’t sure how many more courses to expect, so I didn’t want to fill up on the bread. It was good though.
The fifth wine was a 2013 Vina Zoral “Malayeto”. I really enjoyed this one.
More bread? The pretzel bread with Hawaiian salt was great, but I only had a bite.
The fifth course was pig tail with endive. cauliflower, and oxalis. Oxalis are those small leaves.
The flavor was somewhat bland. The pig tail was made into a ball, similar to a sesame ball. I didn’t really enjoy the texture of it. This dish was just a miss for me.
Swinging by with a fancy decanter in hand, the sixth wine was a 2013 Domaine des 3 Cellier “Alchimie”.
The sixth course was short rib with watercress, lime, and Vietnamese herbs.
The short rib was tender with good flavor, but it seemed like everything else on the plate were purely just for presentation. The jelly just seemed odd to me.
I was getting pretty full at this point. Ah, more bread! A delicious ginger coconut basil muffin was served, but I only managed a single bite. I knew a few more courses were on their way.
It was time to transition into the dessert courses. I long wooden piece with a small cone on the end was presented to me. The palate cleanser was a refreshing Marionberry sorbet.
The seventh wine to go with the first dessert course was a 2015 Elio Perrone “Biagaro”.
The sparkling rosé from Italy had just the right amount of sweetness.
The seventh course featured rhubarb with violet, graham, and anise hyssop. Anise hyssop is a is a species of perennial plant in the mint family.
This dessert was nice and light.
The final wine was a 2011 Domaine de Petit Metris “Chaume” from France.
The last course was a chocolate dessert with heart of palm, orange, and citrus begonia.
The smooth ribbon of chocolate was delicious with nice hints of citrus from the orange sauce and edible flower.
The tasting menu concluded with one last single bite – a lemon sphere filled with rosemary tea. I picked it up carefully and popped it into my mouth. It instantly burst with the lemon and rosemary flavor – a nice way to end the meal.
After my meal, I was escorted into the kitchen and given a quick tour.
You can’t help but notice the custom spice rack at the far wall.
The kitchen was very impressive. The space is huge and it was immaculate. The chefs were assembling dishes for the last few diners of the night. Chef Duffy stepped out for a bit, so I didn’t get to meet him unfortunately.
I enjoyed my dinner at Grace. The ambiance was elegant. The service was outstanding. There was plenty of food, so portions were not a problem. The wine pairing was nice, but not absolutely necessary. The presentation of the dishes were beautiful, although a couple dishes fell short in flavor – either it was too bland or too complex. For that reason, I didn’t think it was worth the price. I was expecting to be blown away, but the stunning visuals overtook the taste.
652 W Randolph Street
Chicago IL 60661