Esme - Chicago
One of the most exciting restaurants to open in Chicago since the pandemic hit, Esme brings together art and food in a combiantion that is as lovely to look at as it is delicious to eat. Chef/owner Jenner Tomaska and partner Katrina Bravo opened their Lincoln Park restaurant with a $200 tasting menu, and each dish is carefully designed designed to give as much visual as gustatory pleasure.
Reflecting the creative temperment of the kitchen at Esme, the menu at Esme is constantly changing.
A recent dinner opened with eight canapes, including asparagus custard and something called "Lips, Pirate Fork, and 'Cheeto."
If this food is starting to sound more strange than delicious, and maybe a little suspicious, consider the words of Chicago Tribune food critic Nick Kindeslperger, who wrote, " I was deeply skeptical of Esmé’s $200 tasting menu, art-focused concept. I was wrong. Daring and defiant, yet studied and polished. A great bite here can lodge itself in your brain and refuse to let go, leading you to spend hours researching random topics not normally on your radar."
Many have commented on the potato ice cream with caviar, which sounds preposterious to have a dessert-looking dish with fish roe, but it works, and it underscores the no-holds barred creative approach of Chef Jenner Tomaska, who spent the last ten years at Next, the Alinea Group's "rotating restaurant" known as one of the most creative and challenging dinner spots in Chicago and perhaps the world.
If the caviar/ice cream combo strikes you as surprising, consider the rib with Thai banana and lime zest, the melon with jamon iberico and tuna belly, and the Peaches and Prawn.
Accompanying all these remarkable dishes is an equally remarkable wine list.
Esme is the kind of restaurant that you visit for a special, one-of-a-kind experience; you will never forget your dinner there.