The contemporary Italian restaurant The Florentine has been around for a decadeand like many restaurants, it's gone through some changes.
Yes, the warm woods and the library-study atmosphere are still there, as well as the friendly, attentive serversand, yes, it's still on the second floor of the JW Marriott Hotel, in the Loop.
However, there have also been some changeswith the most notable regarding the position of executive chef, as Jason Hedin is now in charge. (However, his career may soon undergo a seismic shift, as he's currently competing on the Fox reality-competition show Hell's Kitchen and is rumored to be the winner.)
And with Hedin leading The Florentine, naturally the menu options have changed. Thankfully, the quality is still quite laudable.
There is a caveat, however: There is a thin line between flavorful and overly spicy. Hedin doesn't shy away from spices, so those with a low heat tolerance have been warned.
Said caveat covers some appetizers and entrees, but everything was delicious. Apps such as the tuna tartare and filet mignon carpaccio were delightful, although a wrong bite of the accompanying black-pepper lavash could be overpowering to the wrong person. The (non-spicy) heirloom tomato caprese was absolutely wonderful, with the tomato-basil consomme playing wonderfully off the crisp prosciutto and a cheese emulsion. The rosemary grissini were also pretty cool, featuring large breadsticks draped with lardo parfait and aged San Danielle prosciutto.
Hedin can also dazzle with seafood. The enticing prawns Milanese were accompanied by roasted black garlic aioli, tomato vinaigrette, saffron espuma and tomato powder. The linguine with clams (with brown butter brodo) showcased Hedin's versatility nicely and, even though I'm a bit of a seafood snob (thanks to my East Coast roots), I'm sure the diver scallops would impress DelMarVa residents as well.
However, I haven't even listed two of my favorite items of the evening. The lamb meatballs were spicy and slightly sweet, thanks to the Medjool date and pickled white figresulting in a wonderful, deceptively complex dish. And I'm still dreaming about that black truffle pizza (complete with fontina, black truffle shavings, black truffle emulsion and hen egg). You know how some people can't get enough of garlic or cheese? That's how I feel about truffles, and this pizza delivers.
But Hedin wasn't done. He brought out two incredible desserts: an Italian tableside sundae and a tiramisu mille-feuille. You really can't go wrong with either itemand they're both sublimely decadent.
By the way, even though we didn't get them this time, the black truffle fries with parmesan will be some of the best fries you've ever had.
The Florentine is highly recommended. Bring your appetiteand remember what I said about spices.
The Florentine is at 151 W. Adams St. Visit www.the-florentine.net/ for more information.
Note: This visit was arranged.
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