Citrine Cafe - Oak Park
Oak Park’s Citrine Café is a Mediterranean-inspired neighborhood restaurant that reflects a multi-cultural approach by bringing together different culinary traditions in clever and delightful dishes.
Michael Taus is the culinary director at Citrine, and he and his staff offer a range of dishes to please vegetarians and carnivores.
The Citrine team has a good hand with vegetables. Both the green beans and the ,” (Korean Fried Cauliflower) are cooked just enough to make the veggies easily chewable while still retaining their crunch. It’s easy to overcook vegetables; it’s not so easy to do vegetables to this level of just-right doneness. Korean fried chicken is a distinct type of the breaded and fried bird, and with the KFC (funny, right?), Citrine substitutes cauliflower for chicken, with a spicy seasoning reminiscent of gochugang, a sweet and savory Korean condiment that’s a little like high-personality ketchup.
Spiced lamb sausage had full flavor amped up with harissa, a subtly hot chili paste from Tunisia, and cucumber-mint raita, a cooling, yogurt-based sauce popular in Southeast Asia. This dish represents the cross-cultural influences characteristic of Citrine’s menu.
The gnocchi with Bolognese sauce is much heftier than you’ll find elsewhere, very chewy and substantial. Gnocchi is sometimes airy and fluffy; the gnocchi at Citrine are full-bodied and filling; if you order them for your pasta course, you may find that you don’t even need to order an entrée.
The showstopper is the Eggplant Gateau, composed of 24 layers of thinly sliced eggplant, interlaid with a light sauce of roasted tomatoes, whipped ricotta, and parmesan, a kind of highly finessed eggplant parmesan. “This recipe is from my grandmother, who was Sicilian and a genius at cooking,” says Taus. “She would slice the eggplant super thin,” and then dredge it in only egg and flour, without breading, yielding a crepe-like delicacy to each slice that enables the taste of the namesake vegetable to come through more cleanly. The sauce and cheese play decidedly supporting roles, there to enhance the hero, the eggplant. This dish was fantastic, so elegantly composed and delicious.
Citrine also makes a mean cheeseburger.
For dessert, the flourless chocolate cake is a super-rich conclusion to dinner, and one piece will likely be enough for two.