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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Plunder the Treasures of Chef Andrew's Tesori!

Dieting has never been more in danger of becoming a hopeless cause than since I discovered Tesori (Italian for "treasures") at 65 East Adams Street in Chicago last night. And, believe me, I'm not complaining!

I mean, talk about firing on all cylinders. From Chef Andrew's menu and preparation, dining room manager Mike's wine selection, the management and wait staff's helpful and sociable doting, right down to surprisingly reasonable prices, my experience was a finely tuned, high performance joy ride of taste bud pedal to the metal through culinary vistas I've never been. Vroom!

For my money, food out ought to be either best of class for classics, or entirely original. I could have thrown darts at Chef Andrew's menu while blindfolded and hit either bulls-eye every time, and sometimes hitting both simultaneously.

Take, for example, the "charred octopus, san marzano relish, caper, olive". The octopus was easily the best I've ever had, and the garnish completely original. The "veal cheeks, anson mills stone ground polenta" was by far best of class on both counts. The veal cheeks astonished with every bite. And the polenta was itself so amazing that, as crazy as it might sound, I can imagine wearing a disguise and starting out with a couple martinis to work up the nerve to shamelessly order nothing but a big bowl of the polenta.

The "white zucchini soup, carrot, herb olive oil" was a completely new taste experience, as was the "linguini, duck bolognese, confit, parmesan". I'd have not guessed I was eating bird - especially game bird - had I not known it was duck in advance. Fantastic.

I also sampled the "sugar beet [salad, with] baby spinach, white balsamic, asparagus, gorgonzola, marcona almonds", and a new item not yet on the menu, which was a pizza of béchamel sauce, house-made ricotta, prosciutto, and arugula. Both won a cigar in ringing my newness bell resoundingly.

Despite being filled to capacity, I had my share of two dessert items. I failed to detonate the "spumoni bombe" that was the 4th of July to my tongue, and switchboard overload to the pleasure centers of my brain. And the pink grapefruit and mint sorbetti portion of the "trio of gelato & sorbetti" had me repeatedly uttering the words, "Oh my God! Can you believe this?!!", as though a new slot in the periodic table of elements had opened up before my very eyes. Chef Andrew, when it comes to cuisine, you've turned the phrase "there's nothing new under the sun" completely on its ear.

The service was swift and unobtrusive, yet socially engaging. Our server, Rachael, was adept at anticipating our needs. Used plates and utensils were removed without interruption. It was comforting to feel so appreciated that the dining room manager, Mike, and/or the general manager, Sean, were present when dishes were present, sometimes even presenting dishes themselves.

While I don't know if it was a consciously planned part of the experience, I was intrigued by feeling as though I were in a mode less about explicitly picking items from the menu than being presented with - and pleasantly surprised by - options that dining room manager Mike and Chef Andrew divined from our discussions with Mike. Picture miniature brainstorming sessions throughout the meal to hone in on exactly what would work best with respect to one's ongoing exploration. It was very much the dining equivalent of having a private trainer, or a tour guide in what would otherwise be a culinary maze. It bordered on an entirely new approach to dining.

You owe it to yourself to let loose your inner pirate and revel in the treasures of Tesori!

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