During our recent stay at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago, a Four Seasons Hotel, we chose to have dinner at deca RESTAURANT+BAR and we were delighted with our experience there. Just over a month old, its feeling is very different than what we remember of an earlier visit some time ago. But, as manager, Benjamin Elgrably explained, there is a very different approach now. After thirteen years at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, he came to oversee the transition to deca. Previously, this restaurant was a destination for a special occassions, a place to go only once in a long while. Now the concept is inspired by the French brasserie, casual and comfortable with a limited, delectable menu. Its wish is to be a part of the neighborhood, a place to go day or night. I mentioned this restaurant to a friend who said, “It’s good to know about it when we are downtown”. We agree.
It is a great place to know about. It was comfortable and relaxed, lovely and open, with a gorgeous view. The art deco-inspired décor, and engaging, sophisticated bar, designed by BraytonHughes Design Studios added to its appeal. Executive Chef Mark Payne and his innovative culinary team presented a great menu that included classic dishes with a creative twist. At the first bite, it was obvious that locally sourced, fresh ingredients were used. The night we were there, it was Sous Chef Christopher Aguirre, who was in charge and the food was delicious. And the prices are reasonable. At lunch the most expensive dish is Steak Frites and the charge is $22.00. And, this is in a perfect location with wonderful ambiance.
Now back to our lovely, relaxing, delicious dinner. Our server was Jessica, who was sensitive, charming and efficient. In addition to the menu, she presented us with a chalkboard containing the evenings’ specials.
Leon began his meal with Steamed Mussels and French Fries, one of decas’ signature dishes. The presentation was dramatic and the aroma wonderful. But watching him savor them was the most fun. He said that the meat inside was bursting with flavor, the portion was generous and the sauce presented an excellent blend of flavors.
I (Barbara) ordered another signature dish to begin the meal. Leeks Vinaigrette with Fourme D’Ambert Blue Cheese and Caramelised Walnuts was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was so unique and absolutely delicious. There was a sensation of sweet and salt, smooth and crunchy that was delectable. Although it did not look very big, it was rich and pleasantly filling.
For the main course, Leon selected Trofie Pasta with Clams. Again just watching him clearly enjoy it enhanced my experience. He described the pasta as the el dente and relished the seafood flavor of the clams and the textures of the firm, smooth pasta with the crunchy broccoli.
I ordered one of the specials from the blackboard, Olive Oil Poached Black Cod. Again, this was one of the most unusual blends of textures and flavors I have experienced. On a bed of potato puree flavored with truffle oil there was the cod, and asparagus with small bits of morel mushrooms and a watercress garnish. The asparagus tasted as though it was just picked, crunchy and fresh and gave the somewhat bland fish and the soft texture of the potatoes a punch, which was enhanced even more with the bite of the watercress.
The glass of Pinot Gris was just perfect with the fish dishes. We were amazed to learn that there are 80 wines available and 40 by the glass. A new wine machine will be arriving soon which sounded amazing. It will store 20 different wines and preserve them for two weeks. Sounds unreal!
Having thoroughly enjoyed our meals, we expected to split one dessert but instead, we split two. How could we fail to try the wonderful signature desserts? They were simply amazing.
The Deca-dent Cake, Ten Layered Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Frosting was that and more. It was light, not too sweet with dark chocolate and one bite begged for another. Truly decadent!
Both of us enjoy tart flavors and found the Lemon, Lemon Tart, Sable Crust, Fresh Raspberries irresistible. Lucky for us. The tartness was present but pleasantly so. The crust was unusual and was the perfect contrast for the smooth texture of the filling and the raspberries enhanced the flavor and perked it up with the color contrast.
It was not easy to leave. It was so pleasant. Conversation was easy and around us happy tables of diners appeared to be enjoying their experience as much as we were.
We look forward to return visit soon.
For more information and reservations, visit The Ritz Carlton Chicago or deca RESTAURANT + BAR.
The Ritz- Carlton Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel)
160 East Pearson Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Photos: Leon Keer