Much like Hobbits have second breakfasts, I believe that a person should have several birthday meals. Me personally, I had three. To end the big 3-1 celebration, Katie, our close friend Elaine, and myself visited Tru here in Chicago for a late night dessert tasting. Elaine’s husband Nate, and also our close friend, is one of the pastry chefs at the award-winning restaurant. Katie and I have been excited to try Nate’s work for ages, and luckily we finally got our chance.
Tru is, without a doubt, the fanciest place we’ve ever eaten. The valet attendant asked us for our reservation name, and told us they were all ready for us. No ticket was necessary. The windows are shrouded in dark curtains, giving a sense of both decorum and mystery to the space on St. Clair. If you didn’t know where it was, you’d probably pass it by. Inside, the walls are decorated with with photography and other pieces of modern art, a tour of which Tru will provide.
The hostess greeted us, and asked if we could wait in the waiting area for a few minutes as she wanted to make sure our table was prepared. Most interesting is that the waiting area was at one point a bar, but it was removed by design to create, what I assume is a quieter atmosphere.
We were quickly ushered to our corner table where we had no less than 3 people constantly attending to us. Our seats were pushed in by the servers. The women in the group were given a small stool to place their belongings on. And we were also given our choice of napkin color, which tickled my fancy for some reason. My inner monologue was saying, “Hell yeah I want a black napkin. I’m punk rock!”
Elaine told the restaurant ahead of time it was my birthday, so our waiter, Thierry, offered me a warm greeting as he handed us our menus. What surprised me was that the menus were actually personalized. Printed out across the top they all said, “Happy Birthday Michael.” It was such a simply, but classy move. I was already won over, and I hadn’t even tried their food yet. We quickly told them we wanted the tasting, the menus were removed, and the sugar feast began.
Before the first course we were treated to an apple shooter with rosemary foam and almond black pepper crunch (pictured). I wasn’t sure what to think of the black pepper crunch, but you couldn’t really taste pepper. Instead, it provided a nice crunch to the apple beverage, almost reminding me of a brown sugar topping on an apple pie.
First course -Fruits
The first course featured three different dishes with fruits as the main theme. Elaine was given an apple crumble w/ vanilla ice cream.
Katie received a Banana date sticky toffee pudding with fried plantain chip and root beer reduction, caramelized banana and date and oatmeal ice cream. Not a fan of banana, she soldiered through. While she enjoyed the plantain, I ended up with the caramelized banana. She loved the sticky toffee pudding, root beer reduction and oatmeal ice cream, however. And I can second the deliciousness of the pudding, and I’m normally not a fan of toffee.
I was given a Vanilla cream-lemon chiffon cake, vanilla cremeaux, caramelized rice crispies, vanilla whipped cream, vanilla powder in a vanilla tuille; Lemon curd ice cream with candied vanilla bean; Citrus segments in vanilla caramel with micro sorrel. (pictured) There is nothing funnier than seeing me try and crack open a tuille at a nice restaurant. I’m trying not to make a mess, so I end up slowly gnawing away at a side of it with my spoon. The lemon ice cream was outstanding. It was tart like a key lime pie, so I was a fan from the first bite. The caramelized rice krispies were fun. And the vanilla cream tuille was outstanding. Each layer held a different consistency, but together the flavors were smooth and didn’t overpower each other, letting you taste each flavor as it hit your tongue.
Second Course – Chocolate
Mmmmm…..chocolate. The first course was merely preparation for this. This was the money-maker. And we weren’t let down. Elaine’s dish was probably the most fun at the table; Chocolate french toast, chocolate bergamot paint, candied cocoa nibs, cinnamon ice cream. Imaginative and tasty are the two words that come to mind. It tasted exactly like Sunday morning breakfast with a hint of chocolate.
Katie’s dish proved just how much I love macaroons. The dish was right up her alley, as it was a smorgasbord of chocolate; Cocoa nib macaroon with sour cream/ milk chocolate ganache, white chocolate chiboust, milk chocolate cream, dark chocolate ganache with chocolate struesel and dark chocolate ice cream. I only tried the macaroon, but it melted in the mouth, giving away to the smooth taste of the ganache.
My dish was declared the winner at the table; a Napoleon with guanaja pave, vanilla parfait, nougatine tiles, fleur de sel caramel and caramel dipped hazelnut. (pictured) The pave was thick, providing a chewy base for the lighter layers above. This was a highlight of the evening.
We were also treated to Nate’s signature dish, a LAYER made of pistachio coupe- brandy soaked cherry in kirsch gelee, pistachio mousse, cocoa puffs, kirsch foam, honey roasted pistachios and shaved madagascar chocolate. Talk about light and fluffy. It reminded me of a picnic dessert that your mom would make. And I loved the textural difference the cocoa puffs provided. It was a nice palette cleanser after the richness of the previous course.
Before the final course we were given a small root beer float using Gale Gands in-house root beer. I can see why she bottles the stuff; It’s pretty damn tasty.
Around this time, we were feeling a little worse for wear. None of us were use to eating such rich foods so late at night. It wasn’t getting pretty. Elaine was tweaked on sugar and caffeine, I was convinced I was going to die, and only Katie seemed relatively okay considering everything we had eaten. There was little time to recoup though as the third course came out next.
Third Course – Mignardises
“…Mignardises, from the old French word mignard, meaning pretty or delicate, is the perfect word to describe the little after-dessert desserts…” (thanks Dessert First!) Our waiter Thierry rolled out a cart of mignardises for us, taking the time to describe each one. As the birthday boy I was given one of each, even if I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. But, for the most part I’m glad I did.
We were treated to: (clockwise from bottom left) watermelon and strawberry lollipops, a dulce de leche lollipop, sugar dusted fruit gelee, chocolate covered pistachio cake with gold foil, a dark chocolate truffle with cocoa dusting, handmade caramel, vanilla bean macaroon, and handmade toffee. If that wasn’t enough, we were also given our choice of a milk chocolate truffle with a peanut butter-chocolate filling or a dark chocolate truffle with a rose flavored chocolate filling. I again was given both. Seriously, I thought I was going to die.
The only two disappointing notes for me came during this third course. The dulce de leche lolli was actually flavored with coffee, which I’m no fan of (even if Elaine is convinced otherwise). And the dark chocolate truffle’s filling was a little too strong with the rose essence. Otherwise, I was only disappointed in the fact that the meal was officially at an end.
As a final treat at our table, we were giving a small bowl of warm cinnamon madelines. Cute and tasty.
Before we left however, we were given a tour of the kitchen, which was immaculate. Granted, it was near the end of the evening, but the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants are known for their attention to cleanliness. Plus it was just fun seeing a professional kitchen setup. I’ve never been near one. And I was in awe. Thierry had given me my menus in a Tru envelope, so I asked the chefs to sign them. I can’t wait to get that framed. I’m such a food dork.
As we headed out, the doorman stopped us and gave us our final surprise for the evening, a lemon pound cake with a powdered sugar glaze. “To enjoy with your coffee tomorrow morning,” he said.
This experience is one of the best I’ve ever had at a restaurant. I can see why people get addicted to fine dining. We were in there for two hours eating some of the best desserts to come our way, the staff was amazing and friendly, and the overall experience is something I haven’t been able to stop raving about. I can’t wait to bring people to Tru to share the experience with them. I can’t wait to go back and try the dinner tasting. I’ve made myself hungry just typing this up.
FYI: For fans of chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand, signed copies of their books are available in the foyer. Also, the rest of the photos from the evening can be found in my flickr account on the right-hand side.
676 N Saint Clair St
Chicago, IL 60611