Wednesday, October 26, 2011

vie - western springs, il
4471 lawn avenue
western springs, il 60558

located about forty minutes outside of chicago, vie is a one star michelin restaurant run by chef/owner paul virant. a culinary institute of america graduate, virant spent time in the kitchens of charlie trotters, ambria, blackbird, and everest before opening vie in 2004. having been named to gayot's list of america's top forty restaurants in both 2010 and 2011, vie is a place that has had my attention for some time now. unfortunately, due to its location and the fact that we normally take either the train or the megabus to chicago for both convenience and cost and always stay right down town, a visit to the restaurant never really seemed practical. this trip, however, was different as we decided to drive our new hybrid car and stay outside the city to help keep the cost down, thus making a meal at vie a logical decision in terms of location and price.

arrving at vie a few minutes before our 8pm reservation, carrie and i had no trouble parking with plenty of spots being available on both the street and in a lot across from the restaurant. from the outside, vie is very unassuming with its dark tinted glass and simple awning with the word vie being spelled in all lowercase letters. inside, vie is much larger then i had pictured and is surprisingly modern in design given its location and style of food.

after being seated in the main dining area of the restaurant which was basically full, our server dropped by and introduced himself. when i made the reservations a few weeks prior, i alerted the restaurant to the fact that we were planning to partake in the eight course tasting menu instead of ordering al a carte, and asked if a printed copy of the menu could be provided for carrie and i to take home. along with introductions, our server dropped off the requested menus and went over them with us to ensure everything was to our liking.

vie's bread offering is somewhat basic, but the smooth and slightly sweet butter that was served was definitely above average. after a long day of travel much bread was eaten between carrie and i.

with the evenings first wine pour in front of us in the form of full glasses of trocadero champagne, we were served an amuse of roasted sunchokes in a "cherry bomb" vinaigrette with some fennel. a successful starter, the sunchokes were sweet and somewhat nutty while the vinaigrette brought some major acidity to the fray.

for course one, a puck chicken liver mousse was served along with some toast topped with pepper jam. also on the plate were some pickled grapes and some greens. the smooth and creamy mousse was tasty but quite potent, and was most enjoyable when spread on the toast or mixed with the other components of the dish. on its own, however, the mousse was a bit much for our palates.

following the mousse was a course that could have almost been offered as a dessert. above is the long of naples squash beignet with smoked pear butter, butter roasted klug farm pears, pickled kohlrabi, and marinated pumpkin. aside from the pumpkin which didn't really work for me, this was an excellent dish with predominately sweet flavors throughout.

course three was yukon gold potato gnocchi, wilted local spinach, organic creme fraiche, house cured guanciale, lovage, and lemon oil. this was a wonderful dish with the pillows of gnocchi absolutely melting in my mouth and pairing well with the salty jowl bacon and greens. my only complaint about this dish is a complaint i always have when in comes to gnocchi...there is never enough!

the evenings fish course was pan-roasted amaretti coated alaskan halibut with braised spaghetti squash, roasted klug farm apples, shaved white turnips, and werp farm frisee. served with a rich and buttery chardonnay, the halibut was perfect. slightly crisp on the outside and moist and tender within, the fish was complimented well by the apples and veggies.

moving along to one of my favorite proteins, course five arrived in the form of pan-roasted gunthorp farm duck breast with split pea puree, roasted celery root, pickled green cherry tomatoes, wood-grilled onions, and candied ginger duck jus. this was a great dish with the rare duck breast being excellently complimented by the hearty split pea puree which was rich and savory. also excellent were the pickled tomatoes.

as good as the duck, halibut, and gnocchi were, vie saved the best savory for last. shown above is the wood-grilled hawk hills elk loin glazed with an elderberry jus served with nichols farm parsnip puree, roasted sunchokes, and werp farm mustard greens, and a roasted elk and elderberry jus. this was both carrie and i's first encounter with elk, and it was wildly positive. the meat was tender and had a unique flavor that was not really gamy and was maybe even a bit sweet, making it a perfect match for the also sweet parsnip puree.

prarie fruits farm "moonglo" raw goat's milk cheese from champaign, il. was the cheese offering for the night. served with a peach mostardo, the cheese was nutty with a bit of a tang to it.

after the cheese, a fruity palate cleanser was served. i cannot recall the exact flavors at this point, but can say that they served as an effective intermezzo.

for our final bites at vie, we were brought a dense chocolate torte with a delicious popcorn sorbet. this was a great finale with the sorbet perfectly capturing the buttery essence of popcorn and the torte being a textbook example.

after finishing up my coffee and chatting with our server for a bit about chicago's vast dining scene and the michelin guide, carrie and i made our way through the now empty restaurant and across the street to our car. chatting on the short drive to our hotel about the meal we had just experienced, we determined that vie ranks only behind everest and tru on our list of favorite meals at chicago's one star restaurants. everything from the service to the atmosphere to the food at vie was excellent, and given the price point ($140 per person inclusive of wine), i would definitely consider returning to chef virant's suburban restaurant to try another tasting.

Vie on Urbanspoon

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