Many thanks to the folks on this board for the plentiful recommendations. I didn't get to be as adventurous as I would have liked on this trip, but I ate some fine meals nonetheless.
Saturday night dinner at Tizi Melloul started off poorly as we had 9pm reservations and didn't get seated until well after 10pm. However, the restaurant comped us a number of appetizers that were set at our table LITERALLY the moment we sat down, so I felt it was really well handled. Here's what we had:
- fire-roasted mussels with harissa butter were finger-licking good. the harissa had just enough heat without being overwhelming.
- oven-roasted hummus was a bit bland, for me. felt that it could have been served with some sort of pickled veg to brighten the flavors.
- bisteeya was good, but very "nouveau" presentation. i sort of missed (but didn't miss) the powdered-sugar mess of traditional bisteeya
- lamb loin was ok, but a bit too smelly even for me (and i LOVE lamb). i loved the fava beans though - i can't tell you how ecstatic i am that's it fava season!
- beef flank steak was also lovely, and cooked just perfectly medium rare.
- chargrilled asparagus was lovely, but i don't know how on earth i missed the israeli couscous side.
- dessert was chocolate fondue shared. i felt the cardamom pound cake was too dry and crumbly, and couldn't really taste the cardamom.
Sunday breakfast and lunch are not worth mentioning as we all rolled out of bed hungover and walked to the East Bank Club for an entirely too-healthy breakfast. Besides, I needed to save my appetite for North Pond.
After cabbie tried to drop me off at the Museum trying to tell me that it was the only building in the park, I finally made it to North Pond only 10 minutes late.
My partners had already ordered a bottle of '01 La Bete Pinot. Lovely, firm tannic structure, definitely a food wine. Others at the table ordered fish, but this wine to me cried out for something more land-loving.
Service here could not be more perfect. Amuse-bouches were a lovely bit of rare beef with julienne of beet, carrott and zucchini. Server caught wind immediately that two at our table did not eat meat, and quickly replaced theirs with an all-veg version.
I started with the foie gras which was, frankly, perfect. I only wish there had been more of it. The pike & artichoke starter was also lovely; I didn't get to sample the other two starters, but all plates were wiped clean so I can only surmise they were as good as my foie gras.
My entree, Arugula Rolled Boneless Saddle, Braised Leg, Grilled Parmesan Polenta, Carrots with Mint was also quite wonderful. The boneless saddle was delectable, and I could not imagine a more perfect preparation. The braised leg was off the bone (rillette-style) and layered between the polenta. This was fine, but really paled in comparison to the saddle.
The other 3 at the table had the Black Bass (Jasmine Scented, Sweet Peas, White Asparagus Cream, Potato Waffle). Again, all plates were cleaned - quite unusual for this group. I didn't, of course, get a bite.
Stuffed by this time, we nonetheless had to order dessert. The Cocoa Rum (a frozen parfait) was wonderful - but strong. The Marshmallow was such a "comfort food" type of dessert, and the salted caramel ice cream it was served with was fantastic. Balsamic ice cream was divine - in fact, I am committing this summer to figuring out how to make this creation at home.
This was the highlight of my meals in Chicago. the setting was spectacular, the service impeccable and the food exceptionally good.