23 July 2007
Chef Michael Taus steers the ship at the River North dining outpost Zealous. The soothing oasis offers spectacular cuisine that is interesting enough to separate it from its high-end neighbors.
Zealous offers a five-course vegetarian degustation that retails for about $75. The marinated seitan with gnocchi, mushrooms and brussel sprouts was the third course of the night and is pictured above. Dinner began with a mango cube amuse bouche, followed by a lentil dish served beneath mushrooms and pureed peas. This was before the second dish, a vegetable lasagna served beside a French radish salad, which was followed by the aforementioned seitan course.
The fruit sorbet was a refreshing course that was excellent in quality but probably not worthy of being considered a legitimate course before the dessert. Sorbet is often a freebie like the amuse bouche, and while it was a pleasant palate cleaner, I wouldn't have minded a cheese course or another small plate presented in its place. The dessert was a blueberry tart and a soft dark chocolate cake that had a little more sugar than my diabetic palate is used to, but it was delicious.
The wine list at Zealous offers top notch selections, with all of the trophies from Bordeaux and the Rhone in France, many well-picked wines from Germany, Spain and Italy as well as the New World trend setters from Australia and the United States. There is something for everybody, and the helpful staff will be sure to select the perfect glass or bottle for whatever you are eating.
The chef is a great guy. He grew up in the Chicago area, and brought his talents back after a short stint on the West Coast. Chicago Magazine had a great story about Taus' night at another Chicago dining nirvana downtown--Tru. Gale Gand, Tru's pastry chef, told the story of when Taus was served by none other than Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams in her restaurant. Apparently Williams enjoyed Tru so much he wanted to work their for the night, and Zealous' chef was the only free table. Taus might have taken some of the experience home with him, and it helped him craft a masterpiece in downtown Chicago.
The dining room is inviting and relaxing, well designed in almost all respects. Zealous is definitely a great place to check out if you are dining in downtown Chicago.