Feb 232013
 
Ceviche: Cafe 28

Seafood ceviche

Cafe 28 posted on their site that their last service would be brunch on February 28. I didn’t learn of it until about 4:00 today. Of course I did what any fan of a beloved neighborhood favorite would do — I grabbed a friend and made a bee-line to their door.

Sangria Pear Salad: Cafe 28

Sangria Pear Salad

We got there soon after they opened and were able to get a table in the rapidly filling space. Our waiter took full advantage of the nostalgia, suggesting two appetizers when we were undecided between our favorite, “It’s your last chance…”

It was. We probably over-ordered, but there was little guilt when the excellent ceviche and guacamole arrived. Sigh. I miss them both already. I brought rum for the make-your-own cocktails (since Cafe 28 had lost their liquor license), and we enjoyed one more mojito. Yum!

Plantain: Cafe 28

Plantains!

I had fewer problems deciding on the main dish. The Shrimp Coval has always been my favorite — I love the fajitas, the dipping sauces, and the spicy heat. Plus, leftovers! I can still savor the tastiness through lunch tomorrow.

Shrimp Comal: Cafe 28

Shrimp Comal

We splurged on tres leches cake, even though there was no room. It’s was excellent. Every last bite reminded me how much I’m going to miss this restaurant.

Are you going to miss Cafe 28? Lemme know!

Cafe 28
Open through brunch on February 25.
1800 W Irving Park Rd.
(773) 528-2883

Sep 162012
 

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.

Foie gras torchon under 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.

Grilled Loch Duart salmon over freekah

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.

Foie gras on spicy lobster toast

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.

Seared duck breast with cornbread and salsa

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.

Dessert duo: brown butter apple tart and steamed Valrhona chocolate cake

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.

Brown butter apple tart with Goldschläger ice cream

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)

Zealous

419 West Superior St.

Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 475-9112

I was invited to Zealous as a member of the media. All food was free.