Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ceres' Table

I try not to give too many 5 star meals so that when I stumble upon one it has significance. Last night's meal at Ceres' Table was a refreshing reminder why I enjoy dining out and especially finding new great spots. The skinny on the great meal is three courses ($25 prix fixe 5-7pm) with a good cocktail list, good service and delicious food. Between the two of us we ordered: the soup of the day and gnocchi, flat iron steak and lamb shank while finishing with chocolate souffle and banana chocolate bread pudding. All of that for $50 is a steal, and if you stop reading now to book a table I would not be offended.


The restaurant is located in a new building next to a car pound and across the street from a cemetery. I enjoyed the contrast of walking to a small room with very clean lines, white walls and wooden four-tops. A very simple and elegant way to prepare for a meal from a restaurant named after the Greek goddess of agriculture.  The service and plate-ware all reinforced the mood. I noticed and enjoy the menu layout with two columns and simple titles of the main ingredient. You simple order the "flat iron steak" or "chicken," which reminds of you what to expect and what you will consume. 

Our first course included the soup of the day (pureed parsnip with other goods) and the gnocchi served with rabbit confit, arugula pesto and cheese. My soup was fantastic but Erica's gnocchi was only mediocre and slightly bland (our only minor complaint of the evening). 

The main courses were both first rate with an ideal amount of meat-to-sides ratio and ample sauce to enjoy. Erica may have out ordered me with the steak, but both dishes are worth trying. My lamb shank came with the bone but the meat was perfectly cooked and just melted away. It was accompanied by horseradish mashed potatoes, onions, celery, orange and radish. The sauce complemented all of the flavors while not being too rich or overwhelming.

As I mentioned, Erica's steak may have been better, but I'm also more of a steak than lamb person. The few bites I stole were "oh my word" good and displayed a similar characteristic of well cooked meat, appropriate sides and a fantastic sauce. When you consider that dish alone is worth $22, three courses this quality for $25 is borderline criminal.

We knew we consumed special food after the first two courses, and contemplated about a potential 5 star meal right then and there. What's amazing is that the desert course is prepared by TOC Eat Out Award Nominee Pastry Chef Leticia Zenteno. The choices all looked great, and we decided to try the chocolate souffle and banana chocolate bread pudding.

souffle on left, bread pudding on right

When we first started eating the bread pudding, we didn't talk very much. A few "wows" and "hmms" came out, but until the last bite was consumed we feasted as if we were never going to see food again. It was that good. I've decided souffles are made a little differently everywhere you go. The quality is undeniable but the chocolate was a bit too rich for my palate. The candied pecans and tangerine slices were a nice touch, and I used them as objects to dip into the melted chocolate goodness. Even though we preferred the banana chocolate bread pudding, we nearly ate the entire souffle. 

I highly, very highly recommend making the trip to Ceres' Table (If you get towed by Lincoln Towing, bring in the receipt for a free dessert). The service didn't miss a beat, the pastry chef is award nominated (she gets my vote) and food quality and flavors are second to none. I'm happy to add Ceres' Table to the 5 star list and hope you do too. It feels (and tastes) good to be back in Chicago.

Ceres' Table on Urbanspoon

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