Zealous celebrates its 19th anniversary this month with a throwback 5-course degustation menu featuring favorite dishes from over the years.
I had never been to the restaurant before, but thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Both the food and service impressed me. Andrew, our sommelier/waiter, provided excellent wine pairings – perhaps the best I’ve had at a Chicago restaurant. Each wine was served at the proper temperature and service was orchestrated perfectly between wine and food. There was never a lull between courses, yet we never felt rushed. Bread was even offered again as soon as I had finished one roll. I didn’t need any more, but it was a nice touch nevertheless.
Our meal kicked off with a glass of bubbly Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico and foie gras torchon hidden under a carrot ginger gelee.
First course was a grilled Loch Duart salmon with freekah, date puree, almond foam and crushed almonds and gremolata under the foam. This was perhaps my favorite course of the evening, and a generous portion of fish for a first course. The salmon was cooked to mid-rare perfection, so the toothsome freekah was a great contrast to the tender fish. The almonds and dates added nice texture and flavor without distracting from the exquisite salmon. Our wine pairing of 2010 Morgadío Albariño Rías Baixas Legado del Conde was smooth, clean and bright. Considering that the last time I had Scottish salmon, at etoile, I got food poisoning, this was exponentially better.
Next, we had a grilled Hudson Valley foie gras. The creamy foie was spread on a crunchy lobster toast in pineapple vinaigrette and paired with Domäne Wachau’s Grüner Veltliner, a dry medium-bodied white.
Our main course was seared duck breast with cornbread, caramelized onion barbecue sauce and black bean corn salsa with blue corn tortilla chips. The duck was incredibly tender with a nice flap of crispy skin, and the salsa was very fresh. It was nice to see a Southwest take on duck when I’m used to either French or Asian preparations.
After a simple tropical granita palate cleanser, it was time for dessert. Between the steamed valrhona chocolate currant pudding cake with basil ice cream and the brown butter apple tart with Goldschläger ice cream, the apple tart was my favorite. Perfectly flaky and tart with a sprinkling of cinnamon, and the Goldschläger ice cream was a great accompaniment. I’ve never had Goldschläger before, but after trying the ice cream variation, I think I’ll order some next time I’m out.
Chef Michael Taus came out to greet us, wearing a baseball cap, and mentioned how frequently he changes the menu. He has a 5-course vegetarian tasting menu available as well at the same price ($85), and even enjoys creating special meals for guests with dietary restrictions. With so many restaurants shuttering after just a few years, it’s incredible that Taus has kept Zealous alive and well for nearly my entire lifetime. It’s a little farther west than I typically wander in River North, but well worth the trek. Street parking is a cinch, and the neighborhood itself is residential and fairly quiet.
Even if you can’t make it in by the end of September to try the “Best of the Best” tasting menu, Zealous is worth visiting. I suspect I’ll be back soon to try the skatewing with pumpkin risotto. That is, if it’s still on the menu. And if it’s not, I know Chef Taus will do his best to whip it up if I ask nicely. All while still tweeting from the kitchen (@Michael_Taus)
419 West Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60654
I was invited to Zealous as a member of the media. All food was free.