Restaurants & Bars

Chicago Area

Carlos' in Highland Park


Restaurants & Bars Chicago Area

Carlos' in Highland Park

ShikaSfrn | | Feb 12, 2008 02:25 PM

Hey all,

Just wanted to know your thoughts on this restaurant... I went there last night and had the fish and shellfish degustation (my mom had the meat and game degustation), and it was really excellent. Among those of you who have been, do you know how often they change the degustation and/or ala carte menus? Also, have you found it to be consistently great? Specifically, what did you think of the wine pairings if you chose to do it, and the degustation dessert? For the most part, I was extremely pleased with the wine pairing, but would have changed a few things. As for dessert, I was a little disappointed by the trio, and would have much preferred the fromage plate. For those of you curious about the menus, here they are (I can only comment on the fish, as I don't eat meat, but my mom thoroughly enjoyed hers):

Chef's Selection
Meat and Game Degustation Menu

Amuse Buche: Cappuccino soup of asparagus and wild mushrooms with fried vegetables and basil oil

Grilled California Squab Breast with Tart of Spinach, and Mushrooms
with a Natural Jus
2001 Vosne-Romanée Domaine Gros Frére et Soeur Burgundy

Pan Seared Duck and Duck Confit with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Baby Carrots and a Grape Reduction
2006 Greg Norman Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Grilled Lamb Chop with Ox-Tail Ravioli,
Baby Spinach and a Caramelized Shallot and Sherry Gastrique
2004 Joseph Carr Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cocoa Crusted New Zealand Venison with Caramelized Fennel, Root Vegetables and a Cherry Reduction
2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de Saint Siffrein Rhone Valley

Grilled Ribeye with Butter Poached Fingerling Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and a Cabernet-Rosemary Reduction
2003 Fagus de Coto de Hayas Garnacha CXampo de Borja Spain

Symphony of Dessert
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne

Petits Four

Chef's Selection
Shell Fish and Fish Degustation Menu

Amuse Buche: Cappuccino soup of asparagus and wild mushrooms with fried vegetables and basil oil
This was a great way to start, and certainly had me wanting more! I tend to steer away from mushroom soups, as they often overwhelm or are too rich. The asparagus gave this the perfect balance and just the hint of mushroom, and the fried vegetables with the basil oil were a great addition.

Scottish Smoked Salmon and Butter Poached Fingerling Potato Terrine
with a Caviar and Vodka Cream Reduction
2005 Balthazar Ress Riësling-Kabinett Rheingau Germany
This was my least favorite. I was excited about this dish, especially the vodka cream reduction, but it was a little bland for my palate. Perhaps this was not to overload the taste buds and start light, but I have to say my mom enjoyed hers much more than she enjoyed mine. The Reisling, however, was outstanding.

Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with Kiwi, Mango and a Sunchoke Puree
2006 Torresella Veneto, Italy Pinot Grigio
Incredible. I was worried this would be overly sweet, but the flavors were perfectly balanced. The Pinot Grigio also had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the sauce, and wasn't overly fruity at all. Perfect marriage of food and wine.

Chervil and Black Truffle Crusted Ahi Tuna
with Roasted Kobacha Squash and a Truffle-Thyme Reduction
2005 Kathy Lynskey Wines Marlborough, New Zealand Pinot Gris
I didn't really get the Black Truffle flavor at all, but in general this, too, was really great. Perfectly cooked, and just enough sweetness in the reduction. The squash was really small and so didn't overwhelm the dish, perfect amount of balance of sweet and tang. I wasn't expecting to love this Pinot Gris since I tend to prefer those not from New Zealand, but this couldn't have been a better choice. I really enjoyed it; light and fruity, yet had the acidity and crispness that you want from a Pinot.

Pan Seared Jumbo Prawn
with Parsnip Custard and a Caramelized Popcorn Reduction
2006 Jean-Marc Brocard "Dom. Saint Clarie" Chablis
This was divine. The prawn was the exact temperature I wanted, the parsnip custard was a great texture and went very well with the rest of the dish. The flavor combinations were just right on. The Chablis was good, but I might have made a different choice. Though I did appreciate that there was a high acidity to it, which cut through the sweetness of the parsnip and the caramelization.

Red Snapper with Braised Kale, Salsify Puree
and a Stone Ground Mustard Beurre Blanc
2005 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Alexander Valley
WOW. There was not one flaw to this dish, and I could eat it every day for dinner and be perfectly content. I was surprised by the sweetness of the dish, which was offset nicely with the mustard beurre blanc. I also tend to enjoy savory rather than sweet, so I was surprised by how much I loved these dishes, but I think it was because there was also a nice savory flavor, or tang or acid, to counterbalance. Again, I appreciated the acidity in the Chardonnay to cut through the sauce and the sweetness, but it was a little bit more oaky than I prefer.

Symphony of Dessert
NV Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne
I was disappointed by the trio of desserts. They were just very standard and safe, something I could find at any bistro for a degustation that didn't cost as much as this one. I guess I was expecting too much after the main courses. I also appreciate when restaurants make the extra effort to pair a really great dessert wine, instead of the typical Brut to end a meal. And in this case, the Brut seemed to just be their default wine pairing with any dessert, rather than a thoughtful choice... it didn't stand against the dessert, but certainly didn't add anything.

Petits Four

Sorry for the lengthy report, hopefully you all stuck around to read it :) After such a wonderful experience, I just wanted to know your thoughts on it, and wondering if I should make this my go-to place :) And for those of you who also love this restaurant, which are some comparable restaurants in Chicago?


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