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Zealous - long report on 50th b/d dinner

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Zealous - long report on 50th b/d dinner

Wayno | Apr 18, 2006 11:16 PM

Quite a few of the posts from a few years back regarding Zealous, an upscale and stylish River North restaurant were unfavorable, but this report will be decidedly positive. To celebrate my 50th b/d, two weeks ago, my wife and I flew up from southern IL [St. Louis metro area] and, to my surprise were joined by my oldest friends from LA, SF, Connecticut, Vail and others from StL. We ultimately were a party of 12 on Sat. night. I didn't know our destination until we arrived and, as I later learned, my wife had tried but not succeeded in getting reservations at North Pond, Blackbird and a couple of others that she'd previously heard me recommend to other friends traveling to Chicago. I now know that Zealous has been around, but it never was on my radar. The bottom lines are that 1) the chef owner, Michael Taus, and his staff could not have been more friendly or accomodating - and not the least bit attitudinal [and, though that's not a real word, I know that each of you who deal with trendy restaurants that do you a favor by letting you eat in their space knows what I mean]; 2) the setting was perfect for an "event" like this; and 3) the food was uniformly excellent. Passed canapes had been prearranged in the bar area. These were all interesting and very well prepared, and 2 of which were Asian Crab Cake with Mango Aioli and Sopè with Braised Duck & Avocado. The restaurant was not very crowded [which I hope is atypical] and we were seated at a long table in the center. We were provided with personalized menus reflecting the event, but which I believe offered all that was available to the public. This included a choice of about 8 apps and similar number of entrees. I had a seared Hudson Valley foie gras with caramelized navel orange and blue goat cheese créme caramel to start, and roasted lamb chops to follow, which were absolutely perfect. My wife and had a combo of sturgeon and braised short rib that also was very good. Another entree that a couple friends really liked was sesame crusted chilean sea bass with pan-fried rice noodles and red coconut curry. My dessert was served on a tray with birthday wishes engraved in chocolate. Excellent key lime tartlets. Zealous had an impressive wine room and selection, but, even though I didn't know where we were going to dine, a friend and I brought 5 bottles, which covered us until we got to dessert. For those who may care, we drank Chardonnay from Girard and Cuvaison with the canapes in the bar and, with dinner, a '98 El Molino Pinot Noir, a '97 Consentino "The Poet" meritage, and an '01 Sawyer "Bradford Meritage." They were very good, but, if not, I could blame only myself. Corkage was a not insubstantial $35/bottle, but was many times less what it would have cost to get similar quality wines from the list. We did have a couple half bottles of Beringer Nightingale late harvest sauv blanc/semillon from Zealous' extensive dessert wine selection. The staff didn't give us any grief for supplying our own wines, and Chef Michael made many friendly visits to make sure we were happy and to chat. I will return here even when it's not a special occasion.

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