Located on North Damen Avenue, Takashi is the eponymous restaurant of world-renowned chef Takashi Yagihashi who gained popularity on the PBS show Great Chefs. More recently he has been featured on Iron Chef America and Top Chefs Master. A James Beard Award-winner, Chef Yagihashi was named Best Chef: Midwest during the 13th annual event. Yagihashi is known for his French-Asian fusion, combing European culinary techniques with traditional Asian flavors. Menu items at Takashi include both hot and cold plates, Omakase (chef tasting menu), a Japanese Kaiseki Dinner offering, and a dessert menu. Mains include dishes such as Chicken in Clay Pot, featuring Amish chicken, Shimeji mushrooms, eggplant, haricot vert, and Yuzu juice or the seared loin of veal with lemon-caper brown butter. The Japanese Kaiseki Dinner includes seven courses and optional wine and sake pairings, complementing the subtle flavors of the malaspina oysters and soy-braised pork belly.
Photo Courtesy of Takashi
Under the direction of Chef Roland Liccioni, who alone has racked up a shelf full of culinary nods, acknowledgements, and awards, has led Les Nomades to culinary greatness. In two years, Chef Liccioni earned the restaurant four-stars. With a Vietnamese mother, a Corsican father and an upbringing in France, Chef Liccioni’s background is as varied and complex as the flavors he infuses his dishes with. Starters at Les Nomades include lobster ravioli, grilled calamari, and escargot served with yellow tomato coulis and Roquefort cheese, while mains include roasted duck breast with green peppercorn sauce, braised Wagyu beef, and roasted partridge served with grilled bison, sage grits and roasted carrots.
Photo Courtesy of Les Nomades
In 2006 Chicago-native Chef Dale Levitski was the first Chicagoan to compete on Top Chef, ending the show as a finalist and later being nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Great Lakes Region in 2011. When Chef Levitski took over the kitchens at Sprout Restaurant his culinary artistry took over as well, resulting in a menu that incorporates innovative flavors, surprising combinations, and classic good taste. Sprout Restaurant is only open for dinner and also features a special Sunday menu as well as a tasting menu. Start your meal off with the foie gras, prepared with banana, cocoa nib, miso, and mushroom or sample the veal, served alongside taro, turnip, escargot and ramp. Mains at Sprout range from corvine and salmon to lamb and rabbit, while Chef Levitski consistently keeps the palate guessing utilizing kumquat, truffle, fennel, and nicoise olive. Sunday Dinner features a four-course menu of French classics with wine pairings, while the tasting menu is an eight-course affair (wine pairings optional) that features bites of many of Chef Levitski’s most popular dishes.
Photo Courtesy of Sprout Restaurant
Frontera by Rick Bayless
A James Beard Award winner for Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, and Humanitarian of the Year, Chef Rick Bayless has also won countless awards for his PBS Television series Mexico—One Plate at a Time and his best-selling cook books. Chef Bayless is perhaps most famous for popularizing Mexican cuisine in the United States and for using his popularity in the culinary world to help Midwestern farmers as well as Mexican-American achieve an education. Bayless’ Frontera Restaurant in Chicago was honored with the “Outstanding Restaurant Award” in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation. Surrounded by the vibrance of Mexican culture, Frontera’s aesthetics are only outdone by its menu, which changes monthly. Flavorful moles and seasonal grilled meats give way to fresh corn tamales made with banana leaf-steamed sweet corn and wild mushroom empanadas made with corn masa, picked morita chile and wild chanterelles.
Photo Courtesy of Frontera by Rick Bayless
Chicago Tribune’s 2010 “Chef of the Year” and rave reviews of Chef Anthony Martin’s “visually stunning” presentations are just a few of the reasons for Chicago fine dining establishment, Tru’s popularity. At Tru, cuisine, art and wine combine to create a dining experience that speaks to all of the senses simultaneously. Guests will find a menu that is progressively French, utilizing European culinary tradition and matching it with contemporary delivery, so that the colors and arrangement of the food speak before its flavors do. Tru offers three menu types: Prix-Fixe, which is composed of a three-course menu; Collections, a tasting tour which includes six to nine courses; Desserts which showcases Chef Martin’s artistry in both taste and texture. Tru also offers an exclusive selection of caviar, including most recently, coral caviar. Main courses include offerings such as loup de mer, poached in sake with cherry blossom, Shitake mushrooms, and tempura; wild Scottish hare with seasonal accompaniments as well as Fallow deer served alongside celeries, chestnut and red currant. As for Chef Martin’s incredible desserts? Red pear sorbet sits regally on a plane of Valrhona chocolate while a citrus confit, aromatic herbs and ginger playfully comprise his orange cream.
Photo Courtesy of Tru
One of Chicago’s most successful restaurateurs, Chef Arun Sampanthavivat is responsible for a restaurant whose atmosphere and cuisine is likened to that found in a Thai palace. Classical Thai décor, featuring elegantly bending deities, antique paintings, and the glinting of gold serve as an aesthetic appetizer to Arun’s menu. In 2000 The James Beard Foundation nominated Chef Sampanthavivat as the Best Chef in the Mid West and has continually been nominated for the title since 1995. The restaurant also received the AAA Motor club’s Five Star rating and has won countless other acknowledgements from Wine Spectator, the ,Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Magazine. Arun’s offers a seven-course tasting menu, tailored to the diner’s preferences, from Tuesday through Thursday as well as regular, a la carte options. Dishes include a range of richly spiced curries, dumplings prepared with hints of Jicama and sweet and sour, as well as seafood seared and served atop a bed of Kabocha-chili sauce.
Photo Courtesy of Arun's
After a visit to Moto you’ll never look at food the same way again. Inside this innovative restaurant a meal becomes a work of art—a painting, a sculpture. The plate is the canvas, and the diner is the thoughtful connoisseur. Moto encourages a multi-sensory experience for their guests, which the team describes as “a science experiment.” The concept is the brain-child of chef and inventor Homaru Cantu, an Iron Chef America contestant who has been featured in the New York Times Magazine and USA Today for his efforts to help end world hunger. Cantu opened Moto, installing a state-of-the-art kitchen that is more suited to a chemist rather than a chef. In fact, Moto refers to it as the laboratory. Futuristic is the word that comes to mind when Cantu began embroiling himself in the idea of Moto. On the menu guests will find favorite dishes expressed in an entirely different form, like BBQ pork and cornbread or chili-cheese nacho, turn-inside out or upside down, allowing diners to enjoy familiar flavors in ways that are delightful as they are unexpected.
Photo Courtesy of Moto
Helmed by Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan, Henri can credit its success in the city of Chicago to the talented chef who has earned recognition from Chicago magazine and the Chicago Tribune, including Best New Restaurant 2000, Top 10 New Restaurants 2000, as well as critical acclaim for Henri’s sister restaurant, The Gage. Henri serves food that is approachable to the American palate, yet steeped in French influence, featuring daily specials that use seasonal flavors such as Monday cassoulet and Friday bouillabaisse. Henri’s menus include a prixe-fixe lunch, dinner, desserts as well as regional menu, which showcase dishes from the Loire region of France. Diners can enjoy French favorites, like the Croque Monsieur, prepared with French ham, Comte Gruyere and brioche, the Foie Gras Pave with peach jam and Riesling gelee or indulge in flavors a bit closer to home, like the Roasted Veal Chop with seasonal vegetables and the Roasted Duck Breast served aside spiced almond pate brisee.
Photo Courtesy of Henri
Fried chicken and waffles with Burton’s Maple Syrup, short rib and egg rancheros and low-country shrimp and grits are just a few of the flavorful options from Chef Art Smith, decorating Table Fifty-Two’s brunch menu. Both the executive chef and co-owner of Table Fifty-Two, Chef Art Smith has worked for some of today’s most popular celebrities, including the King of Sweden and Barack Obama. However, Smith perhaps gained most acclaim as his role as personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. He has been awarded several James Beard honors; in 2002 he was recognized by the Foundation for his cookbook Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family and in 2007 for Humanitarian of the Year. In 2001 Chef Art was bestowed with the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the category of Human Values. Smith is highly involved in humanitarian efforts such as his commitment to Common Threads, which serves to educate children on the importance of healthy food and cross-cultural acceptance. Aside from brunch, Table Fifty-Two also offers a comprehensive dinner and dessert menu where dishes feature Southern favorites such as cornmeal crusted Illinois catfish and braised collard greens and Mediterranean staples like wood-fired pizzas.
Photo Courtesy of Table Fifty-Two
With a seasonal menu that is constantly changing, other than the reputation of finely prepared food, diners will never know what to expect from a meal inside Chicago’s C-House. In an effort to create an environment that joins the contemporary and the rustic, Executive Chef Rah Shabazz mirrors the environment of C-House in his ever-morphing menu, using only the freshest produce, seafood, and meats. Situated on the ground floor of MileNorth, Chicago Hotel, “American comfort food” is met with a twist of elegance and a shock of modernity, allowing guests to sample a variety of fresh flavors alongside a favorite glass of wine from the restaurant’s well-stocked menu. Taking all of the above into consideration, it’s no wonder it has become a favorite among Chicago residents. The restaurant was selected as one of ChicagoMag.com’s Best New Restaurants in 2009.
Photo Courtesy of C-House
A San Diego native, Chef Shawn McClain made his culinary mark in Chicago after moving to the city to attend Kendall College. His first business venture, Spring, won the Southern Californian a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant as well as an award from Esquire Magazine, crowning the talented Shawn McClain as “Chef of the Year.” After opening his second venture, the Green Zebra in 2004, McClain was only met with further success, taking the honor of Best Chef in the Midwest from the James Beard Foundation just a mere two years later. Green Zebra’s philosophy centers around the ideology of simplicity—using fresh, pure ingredients sourced from local farmers and foragers. As a result, diners can ensure that the menus at Green Zebra are always seasonal and showcase the very best contemporary vegetarian flavors. In addition to their regular menu, a tasting menu and Sunday brunch menu is also available, including rise-and-shine favorites like the Farmer’s Market Omelet and Blueberry Pancakes with whipped cr?me fraiche, lemon curd, mint sugar and maple syrup.
Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto | Thinkstock
Sara graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia with a degree in creative writing. As a military child she spent her childhood living and travelling overseas which shaped her passion for travel, language, food, and intercultural exchange. She has recently joined the JustLuxe editorial team.