My family was in town this past weekend (parents and grandparents), and whenever that happens it turns into an all out eating event. This trip was no different. We were able to hit Perennial Virant, Eleven Lincoln Park, The Florentine, and Shaw’s (for brunch). This highlight of the weekend though was dinner at Grace on Friday night.
We’ve been fans of Curtis Duffy since his days at Avenues and were totally blown away by our first dinner at Grace back in March for Marissa’s birthday (it also didn’t hurt that this happened). I knew right away that I wanted to bring my family in the next time they came to town.
My family LOVES to dine, so I always take it as a personal challenge to bring them to new and interesting places when they come to town. My grandparents in particular aren’t super-adventurous so we tend to stick to nicer, more “chefy” places, but that’s fine. Between the food and the service I was guessing that Grace would be a big hit.
Boy was I right. My grandparents had actually just been to Per Se the week before (for the umpteenth time) and when the meal was over they pronounced Grace the better of the two restaurants. Given the meal we had at Grace I had a hard time arguing with that sentiment.
Not to go blow by blow, but some of the standout dishes included:
King crab and butter & mellon with caviar from the amuse course
An heirloom tomato dish that featured gorgeous tomatoes in various forms paired with some deliciously creamy (and also crispy) burrata
A squab course with the most perfectly cooked bird I’ve ever been served
A small piece of Miyazaki beef that brilliantly paired the meat’s luscious fat with a cube of watermelon
The final savory course of braised lamb that was perfectly portioned and actually a little sweet, creating a nice bridge to some desserts that were much improved over our first visit
It’s fun to watch any restaurant evolve, but I think it’s especially fun at higher end restaurants where the stakes are so high and the pressure to keep innovating is ever-present. Grace has certainly evolved since March. As I mentioned the desserts are better, but I also think the flavors used in all of the dishes have become more complex and interesting. The March menu relied on a lot of acid, which I actually really enjoyed since it helped prevent palate fatigue from setting in. This weekend’s menu still had that, but maybe with a bit more nuance (and even more use of differing textures on the plate, which I love). Also, and this point shouldn’t be underplayed, Grace is one of the few places that gets portion size right in the context of a longer tasting menu. We had 10 or 12 courses* and I didn’t leave disgustingly full which happens to me at just about every comparable restaurant.
Service continues to be among the most polished in the city. Warm and friendly while still remaining professional and appropriate given the price-point.
I know this all sounds a bit gushy and I’ll fully admit that I’m a Duffy fan-boy, but this was truly a great meal and the fact that we were able to share it with family made it even more special.
652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago IL 60661
*Comp disclosure – An extra course of risotto with Australian black truffles. Appreciated, but I don’t think the Italians have anything to worry about when it comes to the truffle business.