Let's just get this out of the way now: Dining at the Pendry establishment Venteux (224 N. Michigan Ave.; venteuxchicago.com )a brasserie, cafe and oyster baris a singular experience.
Partner/Executive Chef Donald Youngone of the youngest chefs to ever be awarded a Michelin star, and someone who loves molecular gastronomyexpertly presents French dishes at Venteux (which, by the way, means "windy" in French) that sport contemporary twists.
Young pays undivided attention to every single dish he makesand the effort shows in taste and presentation. Even something like French onion soup (which could be mundane in amateurish hands) incorporates Gruyere, chives, onion ash and even cocoa nib. The sublime dish Eggs 5 Ways includes the cow's-milk cheese Delice de Bourgogne and is topped with shaved egg yolk. Other hors d'oeuvres range from mussels (with smoked creme fraiche) to duck-liver mousse to escargot (which comes with hollandaise, ground cherry and dill).
On the low, there's even Young's version of a Chicago hot dog (that would be an off-menu request). It's absolutely wonderful, adorned with items such as cornichons.
Even salads (which seem ignored in some places) are elevated in Venteux. The extremely flavorful tuna nicoise contains balsamic, eight-minute egg and mixed greens; and the Werps Farm green salad has balsamic, feta and pumpkin seeds.
My dining companion and I had a hard time choosing between the entrees. No one will confuse the Venteux Burger with a fast-food item, thanks to the raclette, charred leek relish and sous vide pickled items, including blueberries(!). As for the salmon, the menu may read that the expertly cooked fish is accompanied by asparagus, whole-grain mustard and lentils, but there are also portobello and kombu butter.
As for its seafood section, Venteux presents a host of wonderful choices. A one-pound serving of king crab or a whole Maine lobster is each accompanied by brown butter and sumac. Magnificent trays of East and West Coast oysters come with mignonette and cocktail sauces (and lemon, of course). Caviar is presented with creme fraiche, crepes, smoked egg yolk and chilled Grey Goose vodka. Then there are the pinnacles (in terms of variety and quantity): the Grand Platter and Venteux Tower.
And desserts are must-have. The Chocolate & Rye is an indulgent item that arrives under glassand the presentation is something to experience. However, there are other tempting options, such as corn financier, with Marcona almond, blueberries and buttermilk; strawberries and cream; and Grand Marnier souffle.
Needless to say (or write), the drink selection is impeccable and quite expansive. Specialty cocktails include The Honey Badger (Bombay Sapphire, grapefruit juice, cucumber, lime and honey), The French Alchemist (Grey Goose, St. Germain, Liquid Alchemist Prickly Pear, lime, mint and Chandon) and the classic French 75.
However, this all brings me to the one aspect that may give some people pause: price points. That Venteux Tower runs $150 and even the shrimp cocktail is $30. However, the French onion soup only runs $12, and that may constitute a meal for some.
You'll be in absolute heaven at Venteux, thanks to Young and impeccable service. As I did, you might smile while eating; drinking; and listening to French versions of songs such as Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking." I can't wait to try brunch.
Note: The visit to Venteux was arranged.