Graham Elliot is the namesake restaurant of noted chef Graham Elliot Bowles. Bowles has gained notoriety over the years from his stints at restaurants like the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Charlie Trotter's and Tru, on the Top Chef Masters program on Bravo, and from his much publicized spat this week with Chicago Magazine.
Graham Elliot combines Bowles' lighthearted spirit with his flair for the dramatic in fine dining. Servers are dressed down, sporting Chuck Taylors on their feet as opposed to Italian dress shoes. The decor is refined, modern and stylish.
While there are not many vegetarian choices on the menu, the staff was more than willing to prepare vegetarian items a al carte or as part of any of the degustations.
One of the most talked about items at Graham Elliot is his deconstructed Caesar salad (warning: it's not vegetarian) that actually contains a brioche Twinkie. My vegetarian first course was a deconstructed Caprese salad, with green zebra tomatoes, croutons, buffalo mozzarella, basil sprigs and a solid mass that functioned as a green basil crouton. The textures ran the gamut from crispy to soft, and each bite gives a different perspective on the flavors that compose the dish.
The spring pea bisque is a bright, fresh mouthful of the season. The savory quotient of the dish is turned up by creme fraiche, and the clean pea notes linger beautifully on the palate.
The third course was a spring salad, prepared with leafy greens, asparagus, nectarine segments and crispy flatbread wedges in a pea-laced vinaigrette. The flavor is tangy, bright and delicious.
The breaded tofu course was served with mushrooms, microgreens and foamed soy sauce that adds a luscious quality to the dish. Both the presentation and the taste of the dish were breathtaking.
My dessert was a dark chocolate torte with an almond financier, apricot jam, salted caramel sauce and cream cheese. This was another dish where the variety of flavors and textures are on the plate, and by combining the many elements in various ways, each bite is a different experience.
The Intelligentsia coffee from the French press was a nice touch. It was served with an hourglass that, when empty, signified that the coffee was ready to drink.
Graham Elliot is a great experience. The fun environment combined with the cutting edge cuisine is absolutely worth the trip.