Green Zebra

Last night Harold invited me to go to the Green Zebra (which I have learned is a type of heirloom tomato).  It was out of both of our normal price ranges, but his grandmother had told him to take a friend out to dinner on her for his birthday and he sweetly invited me.  Harold had been there before and gave it rave reviews, so I was thrilled to hear I would be able to go as well.  The Chicago Tribune describes the restaurant as an “inventive, almost entirely vegetarian small-plate menu (a few chicken and fish dishes are thrown into the mix) is among the city's most sophisticated. Its globally inspired menu, which changes frequently, may include options like avocado panna cotta and chilled organic beets with a creamy mascarpone foam; poached organic chicken breast; and Alaskan halibut with shaved artichoke, pearl couscous and tandoori spices.”

The restaurant is beautiful and simply designed.  It is small with room for about 50 guests.  As we sat down our server (who was a very animated, excited, and sweet woman) brought us four small bowls as our amuse-bouche.  The first was simple air-popped popcorn seasoned with garam marsala.  It was a simple idea with a superb result.  I was quite impressed.  Second, edamame which was pre shelled.  Third peanuts with a mix of exotic spices and fourth,  yellow beans with a citrus-vinegar seasoning.  All were fantastic and had distinctive and well-complimented tastes.

We ordered NV Pinot Noir, “H”, Hamacher, Willamette Valley, Oregon  and then proceeded to order our food.  The menu was split into three sections beginning with lighter flavors and moving towards the most heavy and rich.  Harold and I each ordered one item from each section and then shared the six dishes as each course arrived.  Here is what we ordered (all descriptions take from the Green Zebra website unless otherwise noted):

Gemma:
Avocado Panna Cotta, with tomato gelee, crème fraiche and sweet corn chips

        -this was incredible.  The avocado was so creamy and the other textures were a great contrast.  It melted in my mouth. Truly outstanding and unique.

Cave-Aged Gruyere Soufflé, endive, and heirloom apples

        -this was also quite good.  I am not well-versed in soufflés but the top seemed a little too thick and dry.  However, once I got to the center it was divine.  The endive and heirloom apple salad was superb.  It was garnished with watercress which was a fantastic touch.

Greengold Farms Chicken Egg, spinach puree, lentils & country sourdough

        -Amazing.  The presentation was superb.  And all the flavors were rich and velvety.  The egg was perfectly boiled with a warm liquid center.  You could definitely taste that they used fresh farm eggs.

Harold:

I could not find their description for his first course, so here it is from memory.  A warm and creamy celery soup with walnuts, a bit of black truffle and topped with black truffle oil.

        -This was also fantastic.  Harold and I were both surprised and pleased with how well the different flavors complimented one another.  It was very rich, but wonderful.  It went nicely with my first course, especially in texture and temperature.

Prospera Farms Baby Carrots, carrot cake, black truffles and aged balsamic vinegar

- I have to say that I think this was the winner of the night.  Amazing.  The baby carrots were julienned and cooked in a balsamic reduction and black truffle oil.  There were flakes of black truffle interspersed as well as some watercress. There was also a 'carrot cake' on the side.  Ultimately neither of us were too thrilled with this. It was interesting, but rather dry and without a whole lot of flavor.  Alone it would have been enjoyable, but it was overpowered and overshadowed when served next to the other carrot offering.

I also could not find their description for his third course.  (This memory is a little hazier, most likely due to the increased wine consumption at this point.) A tiny bowl made out of buttery, flaky pastry with a lid.  The bowl contained steamed red cabbage, black truffles, small walnut pieces, all topped with black truffle oil.

        -Yes, lots of black truffle and black truffle oil.  Absolutely wonderful.  Obviously Harold had a more consistent theme to his selections.  We both agreed that this dish went the best with the wine.  It was a perfect match.  The pastry was amazing, very buttery.  And the cabbage mixture was delicious.  I think the highlight was the texture combined with the warm temperature.

For dessert Harold and I split  the Tasting of Creme Brulees, jasmine green tea, Japanese yuzu and lavender
        - We were a bit stuffed, but I had to try these.  As I told Harold, I am fool for green tea flavored desserts.  They were superb.  The lavender was actually a lavender-ginger.  Creamy, rich, and full of flavor (not to mention the fantastic aromas.  The presentation was clever as well.  It was served in three small cuts on a long board which was vaguely reminiscent of Japanese serving ware.

To begin with, it was awesome to go to a restaurant where I could order off the whole menu (with two exceptions) and moreover this was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had.  Perhaps the best.

Afterwards, Harold and I went to Sonotheque.  It was a very nice lounge behind a misleading facade.  The crowd was small and chill.  The service was efficient and polite.  The drinks were normally priced and there was no cover (I hear there is on the weekends though).  It was dimly lit, stylishly designed, and it had fantastic music with an outstanding sound system.  The music was consuming but it was not an effort to speak over it.  This is my kind of upscale lounge.  Inexpensive, chill, relaxing, and no dancing.  Whew.

It was an amazing night and I owe Harold much gratitude for inviting me with him.

Green Zebra
1460 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

Sonotheque
1444 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

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