Ok, apologies. I’m going to bore you with more food photos. March has unexpectedly been a month of extraordinarily good eats and of course, such things must be documented. After all the eating out in recent weeks, I was ready to have a restaurant free meal last week until my co-worker reminded me it was Chef’s Week. Not one to pass up a good deal and trusting of my co-worker’s good tastes (she’s given me many a good recommendation), I told her I was pretty much game for anything. Landmark Grill was briefly considered but we saw the magic three words “black truffle gnocchi” and immediately decided on Perennial Restaurant.
We had a rather early dinner reservation (5:45 on a Friday) and it felt odd to be sitting down for dinner (Chicago still feeling pretty wintery and all) with a nearly blinding amount of sunlight flooding the restaurant. The waitstaff was accommodating as we changed tables a few times to escape direct sunlight and after that, the meal was smooth, smooth sailing.
The Chef’s Week menu was fairly small (two choices for appetizer and entree, no choice for dessert, although that ended up being a good thing) but to their credit, they at least offered some choices. (Some restaurants had a fixed menu with no options.) Perennial did not hold back either, offering some of their best dishes on the Chef’s Week menu. There were also some recommended additions to be paired with the menu. (Oysters or a hiramasa crudo, both of which sounded tempting but which I skipped in favor of a much less healthier option. More on that later….)
My friend and I both started with the famed black truffle gnocchi. Being huge fans of all things truffle and gnocchi, this was an absolute given. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what the other appetizer option was; it was not even looked at or considered. The plating was gorgeous, albeit a bit unexpected. My friend and I had expected fairly standard looking potato gnocchi with little ridges but these were more like gnocchi alla Romana. Some dishes are hyped but fall short. This one did not disappoint. It was the sort of good that sets off alarm bells and whistles (the good kind, I assure you) in the brain. The gnocchi were delightfully delicate and had tremendous truffle flavor. The parsley root purée and hen of the woods mushrooms tied it together and the frisée salad provided a nice contrast to the richness. I would have happily eaten another two plates of this but there were other things to consider.
In hindsight, the entrees were strangely an after thought at this meal. This wasn’t because they were bad or unmemorable (quite the contrary) but rather because they were completely upstaged by an amazing appetizer and an extraordinary dessert.
Gilding the lily, we decided to add a side of macaroni and cheese off the main dinner menu. We liked the unconventional pasta choice (the orecchiette held the creamy sauce very nicely). The bits of bacon and chives offered some nice contrast and the dish wasn’t oppressively cheesey.
We came for the gnocchi but it really was the dessert that blew us away, a crispy hazelnut bar with pistachio ice cream, caramel, chocolate, and crème fraîche. This was blackout good and I would go back tomorrow just to eat this dish again twice. I dare say even that it was one of the greatest desserts I’ve had in Chicago. Yes. That. Good.
Suffice to say I’ll be going back to Perennial again (hopefully soon). Their dinner menu had plenty of interesting offerings, but I will definitely be saving room for some gnocchi and dessert.