Friday, February 19, 2010

RW Day 1: Lunch at NoMI

Today marks the beginning of my favorite dining week of the year: Chicago Restaurant Week 2010.

During February 19-28, participating restaurants are offering 3 course prix-fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $32. You can see the extensive list of participating restaurants here along with menus and make reservations for most restaurants at OpenTable.

I am SO excited to eat my way through the week!

I could not have asked for a better way to kick off RW this year: lunch at NoMI on a beautiful, sunshine-filled Friday afternoon. The exquisite dining room is even more pleasant against the backdrop of sunny blue skies.

Promptly after being seated, we ordered two glasses of the Spumante to celebrate the relatively warmer weather (it was in the 40's). We were presented with bread (white rolls and walnut raisin bread) and butter with 3 different salts and 3 different peppers. The peppers were from Indonesia, India, and China (szechwan chili pepper). The salts were black salt from Hawaii, Welsch salt, and Australian red salt.

To start I had a delightful butternut squash soup. This was no ordinary soup. It was topped with a coconut swirl, poured over a paprika paste, and garnished with chiffonades of basil and a crunchy wanton ribbon. The combination of the components changed the flavor and complexity of every spoonful, yet none of the flavors were lost. It was wonderfully intriguing. Outstanding. I was very, very happy.

Second course consisted of heavenly pan-seared saffron gnocchi with roasted cauliflower and wild mushrooms over a puree of cauliflower and drops of parsley pesto. The dish was virtually perfect: the light as a feather gnocchi melted in my mouth, the roasted cauliflower had great texture, and the delicate saffron was not overwhelmed with competing flavors. The parsley flavor might have been a bit lost, but the glory of saffron gnocchi goodness was enough to make me fall in love with this dish.

To finish I had pâte à choux: a hazelnut cream puff and a carmel cream puff with gold leaf. Rich, creamy, but light and airy. A lovely end to a delectable lunch.

The service was exceptional, as expected. The experience was flawless. What a perfect start to a week dedicated to eating!

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