Quince Restaurant Review – Wonderful and Whimsical



The space that Quince occupies at the Homestead has a long history with many restaurants preceding it in that space, some spectacular, some not. After my friend mentioned what a lovely evening she had there, Chicago Splash Magazine reviewers Leon and Barbara (my husband and I) decided to learn about its current offerings and, on a gorgeous fall evening, we went there for dinner.

 

Quince has been the restaurant at the Homestead residence in Evanston for four years but Chef Andy Motto has been there for two years.  Immediately upon arrival he proceeded to make complete changes in the menu and the approach to food preparation and presentation. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in 1995 he returned to Chicago and worked at Le Francais in Wheeling, and Les Nomades in Chicago with his mentor, Roland Liccioni, before venturing to Napa Valley to cook and experience the French Laundry under the expert tutelage of Chef Thomas Keller. Motto has spent time cooking at various restaurants in the area – including Tru, Charlie Trotter’s, Les Nomades – before opening the restaurant LeLan. He clearly brings a wide range of experience to Quince. The food we experienced is characterized by wonderful textures, flavors, colors, the use of various foams and a whimsical presentation.

We had the chance to talk with Chef Motto who told us that he bases his menu on the produce he is able to purchase in a given week.  His menus are seasonally driven.  They are also influenced by what is good at the market, the Evanston Farmer’s Market and if more is needed, The Green City Maket in Chicago. We noted that the menu is selective and wide ranging.  He also mentioned that Quince and the Homestead work hard at recycling and “green” practices.

Leon requested the tasting menu while Barbara was interested in vegetarian fare.  Neither of these choices was on the menu as the tasting menu varies both with the season and the best prducts available at a given time.  There are a few vegetarian items listed on the menu but a vegetarian delight can be and was instantly created and served.  And in this way, our evening was filled with delightful surprises.

 



Kathleen, our server kept our glasses and plates filled, describing the subtleties of the wines and dishes as they were served, and Randy cleared our space, all at a pace that allowed for pleasant conversation and time to enjoy all the culinary delights presented. 

 

The ambiance was very pleasant and facilitated relaxed, comfortable conversation.  The wine list, thanks to Scott Quint, wine director, was extensive offering many wines by the glass while bottles ranged in price from $19 to $200, something for everyone. In fact, the wine list features more than 200 diverse, well-priced selections that represent every major wine region of the world, with 25 of these wines available by the glass.  All of the wines have been carefully chosen to pair with specific dishes on the menu as the tasting menu revealed. Leon ordered the tasting menu and each course was paired with a wine that enhanced the flavors of each dish.

 



Our experience began with a glass of Canaletto Prosecco, non-vintage which was delicious.  Soon we were offered a selection of four homemade breads, each of which were delicious and butter that had an unusual but very pleasant flavor. An unusual use of olive oil was the secret.

 

The Mushroom Custard that began our meals was different that anything I had tasted.  This was paired with a Cote do Rhone Village 2008 Granache Sarah.  The mushroom cup had foam on the top that was fun.  There were various mushroom flavors and the texture changed as I ate more and more and the surprising pickled onion added an unexpected crunch. We both enjoyed the blend of flavors and the unexpected sensation of the change in textures.

 

The second item on Leon’s tasting menu was the Lobster.  This dish was very attractive and had a special charm that took a little while to discover.  There was lobster and crab balancing one another and then on one side was a square of herb cake covered with black caviar and on the other side was a tiny round bilini covered with salmon roe.  There was texture, wonderful flavor and color and fun.  Leon enjoyed the “pop” of the salmon roe and caviar.

 



When Kathleen poured the wine, we knew a new dish was on its way and this time it was Spicy-Lamb Ravioli covered with lavender foam.  Leon took a bite and after his mmm, he commented on the wonderful ham, the tender, spicy ground that tickles your tongue lamb and the pasta, which was crisp and pastry-like.  He found the spices pleasant and subtle.

 



The main dish in the tasting menu was the Beef.  This was high quality fillet, perfectly prepared.  Leon’s comment was, “This beef is really good”.  It was medium rare and delicious and accompanied by two of Leon’s favorite vegetables, spinach and asparagus.  The vegetables added to the texture, color and flavor of the meal.  The accompanying Domaine Trienne St. Auguste, Provence, France 2006 was a perfect pairing.  Each of the wines along the way were perfectly paired for the delicious food enhancement.

 



My special treat was Saffron Risotto (garlic, onion, fennel, olives, shaved artichoke with grilled knob onions, Chanterelle mushrooms, golden beets, crispy parmesan, market arugula and radish with herb foam).  The risotto flavors and texture were delicate and very pleasant.  Additional items on the plate were surprises.  The grilled onions had a wake up flavor.  The golden beats were wonderful, tender and mild and contrasted with the crunchy strongly flavored Parmesan and the pickle.

 



The dessert, Banana Bread “PB&J” was, I think, inspired by that PBJ sandwich that children often have with a glass of milk.  Our dessert was a sandwich made from banana bread and filled with macadamia nut butter and homemade grape jelly with vanilla milk for dipping and a small packet of sweet potato chips on the side.  This was a very different dessert experience and a surprise.  I dipped and tasted and could not believe the wonderful flavor-texture sensation.  Do try it; you are bound to like it, although there are six more extremely varied desserts to choose from.

 



There was also a wide range of teas, coffees and dessert wines.  However, when Leon saw the varieties of Single Malt Scotch whiskies, he could not resist the 12-year old McCallan.  It was extremely smooth and a treat that he enjoyed very much.  Our evening was comprised of interesting flavors, surprises, whimsy and was a total delight.

 

Quince offers its space for private parties and group events of all kinds, including friendly gatherings, formal events, receptions, luncheons and brunches, graduation celebrations, wedding or baby showers, wine club dinners, wine tastings, Northwestern University faculty and staff entertaining, corporate recruiting for Northwestern University students, tea parties, cocktail parties, or whatever else meets your needs.  Any combination of the five spaces can be arranged for events.

Qunice

1625 Hinman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 570-8400

www.quincerestaurant.net

Tuesday-Thursday: 5:30 to 9:30
Friday: 5:30 to 10
Saturday: 5 to 10
Sunday: 5 to 9

 

Photos: Leon Keer

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