When I moved to Chicago in 2001 Tru was one of the first high-end restaurants that I tried. I was pretty blown away by the whole thing. The hushed service, the modern dining room, the caviar staircase. As time went by, and after a couple more dinners there (and elsewhere) the experience became stale. Much like when I ate at Charlie Trotter’s and eventually Ria, it felt as if I was still eating “fine dining” from the late 90’s.
My parents gave us a gift card to Tru for our 2nd wedding anniversary and we sort of begrudgingly decided to use it for our 3rd anniversary since it was going to expire. It was around this time that Anthony Martin had fully taken over the kitchen and Rick Tramonto had fully moved on. Eating at Tru that night was like eating at a different restaurant. It felt like the kitchen had been liberated and immediately thrown into present day fine dining. We went back for our 4th anniversary. We were out of town for our 5th, but we made it in for our 6th last night.
The meal we had was just stunning. Every time we go it is evident that Martin is pushing the restaurant to get better, the food to get more creative without sinking into novelty. Some standout dishes:
Bright melon in rose essence, cured duck breast – tiny spheres of cantaloupe in a consumme made from the melon with tiny strips of duck that had been cured with ancho chilis. The cure from the chili made for a wonderful contrast with the sweet melon.
Cool as a cucumber, Arctic char roe – a play on the ultimate 90s fancy appetizer of cucumber with salmon roe. In this version the cucumber took the form of ice cream and the more subtle Arctic char roe stood in for the beat you over the head salty salmon roe. There were also little pieces of diced cucumber scattered throughout the dish, which resulted in a fun play on the textures of both the cucumber and the roe.
Atlantic summer fluke, saffron mussel velouté, lemongrass – a thin disk of barely cooked fluke sat on top of the deliciously rich velouté. The saffron provided a perfect backdrop and complement for the taste of the fish.
Blonde morel royale – and egg custard filled with tiny morels served with a croissant and garlic butter. Even though I loved this dish (I’m a total sucker for chawanmushi) I’m glad it was small.
Scottish salmon, poached in olive oil, cauliflower in textures – this was the real highlight of the night. Even in Alaska I don’t think I’ve ever had salmon like this. Buttery, fatty, and oily but somehow light at the same time. The salmon was served with a small cup of coconut curry that you were supposed to drink between bites of the salmon. The curry injected some heat (both temperature and spice level). This is what really elevated this dish above just being “really good salmon”.
There are plenty of other things that have changed at Tru. There is now a composed cheese course (but you can still get the cart), and the once awesome dessert cart is no more. Now you get a selection of mignardises (which are still very good) from a handheld serving piece.
On the other hand, many things have not changed. Service is still top notch, and has thankfully lightened up a bit.
Overall it was a great evening and I’m so glad that we’ve stumbled upon a great anniversary tradition. We ended the night with a carriage ride most of the way home, with Chicago providing a wonderful closing scene on an absolutely perfect evening.
676 N St Clair St
Chicago, IL 60611