From the moment we walked in until the moment we left, we felt like Porter + Frye was thrilled to have us there. We were seated at a table in a tucked away corner under five gorgeous chandeliers, where we could view the entire dining room. The service was really warm and personable, engaging and yet somehow invisible (until we started chatting up the delightful water girl). Chef Brown even came out to say hello and congratulations, and at the end of the meal gave me a personal tour of the kitchen. The power of a nice note in the OpenTable comments area cannot be underestimated.
We started with the charred tuna appetizer (see photo) with shishito peppers—these peppers weren’t hot but rather bright and tangy. Combined with preserved lemons they totally refreshed what is usually a predictable restaurant dish. We also shared the Berkshire terrine (see photo- it’s covered in a super-thin layer of what is probably lard), and this slice of pork heaven pretty much melted in your mouth but was contrasted with spicy mustard (although I didn’t get much of a violet note) and smoked raisin preserves.
On to soup. Two of us had the celery bisque with roasted wild rice and some bits of pork belly, and two had the French onion soup, which was presented as poured over some onion petals (see photo). There were smears of gruyere and roasted onion puree around the walls of the bowl. It was just deconstructed in a clever way—probably a bit pretentious for some, but we enjoyed it. You don’t know what a big deal it was for me to order celery soup…. I cannot stand raw celery, and even have to mince it up super-finely to cook with it… but for the evening I decided to suspend my culinary disbeliefs and see what Steven Brown could do to change my mind. It was really amazing.
We received a bonus course. Butternut squash agnolotti, powdered bacon, truffle and shiso leaf (see photo). I realized that I had never actually eaten a slice of real truffle before, and it was beautiful…. Seriously, my eyes watered.
Entrees came. I (at the direction of our waiter) had the grilled swordfish—more truffle slices, yippee! It was really moist and well-cooked. CG had the lamb and lamb chop (see photo), with pickled hen of the woods mushrooms (I didn’t like them, but I am picky about my pickles—CG liked them a lot). The lamb chop was slow and just about melted in my mouth. The other part was actually slow-braised lamb neck that had a really delicious deep flavor. One of our companions had the walleye, and said it was really good although not what she expected (and I could not get her to elaborate more on that), and the other one had the veal breast and tenderloin. He also enjoyed it- said it was better than what his grandmother used to make. I tried the veal and liked it a lot, although I did not like the accompanying chestnuts (I find all chestnuts mealy and dry).
We had two plates to share at the table- the gnocchi (see photo), which were delicious for potato gnocchi (but I have to admit we are bigger fans of the Parisian gnocchi served at Bouchon or 112 Eatery), and the hot potato salad—the egg crusted in potato was so good, that I secretly wanted to not share it with the remainder of the table. Great balance of spicy and sweet.
The chef sent out an intermezzo of pear-chamomile sorbet atop ground toffee with a praline garnish, and it was a perfect palate cleanser.
CG and I ordered coffee and the coconut panna cotta (see photo). It was full of coconut flavor and the passionfruit sauce was a perfect tart foil. Also a suspension of my culinary disbeliefs as I usually HATE panna cotta, flan, and all other desserts of a gelatinous consistency. I do love coconut, however, and they did a wonderful job.
We actually audibly groaned when the mignardise came, we were so full. Nine tiny bite-sized desserts that we ate before I could even take a picture. You can only view the wreckage. I want them to be a surprise to you, because I think this is a great new restaurant in the TC and I think some mystery should remain. The price wasn’t even half of what we spent at Tru in Chicago, and that was for four of us, including a bottle of wine and a cocktail for each of us. For a special evening this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.