Monday, February 18, 2013
The Embeya Experience
Members of our chapter have been anticipating the Embeya experience for a few months and for many reasons. First, the restaurant, which opened in mid-September had already built a strong reputation and received rave reviews from top Chicago food critics. Embeya has created a following of loyal diners who enjoy the elegance of the ambiance and the refined cooking of Executive Chef Thai Dang, alumnus of L2O and Ria, who is young enough (“Embeya” in Vietnamese means “younger sibling”) to be daring, yet mature enough to respect the complex traditions of Asian and French cooking.
On the rainy Monday night of February 18, 2013, our chapter took over the 130-seat restaurant in a sold out event. Guests were greeted with a refreshing “Tendron and Lime” cocktail (vodka, dry vermouth, coconut water, freshly squeezed pineapple and lime juices with a touch of vanilla syrup), creation of mixologist Danielle Pizzutillo, Elysian alum and a sake specialist. Sipping cocktails and enjoying appetizers of summer rolls, lemongrass beef and seafood boudin, we admired the subdued hues of décor. Mirrors with lychee tree frames, elegant tables made from tamarind trees and carved teak panels, which separated sections of the restaurant, created the atmosphere of an exotic Asian resort. This graceful and original décor is reflective of attention to every detail in creating an extraordinary dining experience by Maître de Table Restaurateur Attila Gyulai. Attila spent 11 years at Four Seasons in destinations like Provence, Budapest, Bahamas, Santa Barbara and Seattle. He came to Chicago as a partner in the Elysian Hotel and dreamed of opening his own restaurant. His dreams came true when he met Thai, Danielle and Komal Patel, who combines the skills of a marketing and private events director, with the elegance of a gracious hostess.
Attila welcomed everyone and introduced the menu for our evening, which was specially crafted for the event. We were to experience three separate courses with at least two dishes in each course. All dishes were served family style with a lot of thought given to the order in which plates appeared on the tables. The clever “sauce/no sauce” rule combined dishes with and without sauce into one course, so that diners experienced the interactions of flavors within each grouping as they combined on their plate. The first course included green papaya salad with cilantro, crispy shallots and beef jerky (made in house), and had an abundance of light acidic juices. Fried oyster, served with pomelo fruit, lemongrass and lemon balm, is then eaten from the same plate as the salad, mixing the two flavors on the palate. Baby clams with rice cracker, Thai basil and peanut had the least amount of acidity, but benefited from the more acidic flavors of the previous two dishes within this course, with an added crunchiness of the rice cracker and peanuts. The entire first course, characterized by its acidity, spice and herbal flavors was paired with light yet flavorful Snowflake Sake, Dewano Yuki Junmai.
The same “sauce/no sauce” rule governed the choices for our second course. Lightly grilled head-on prawns with green mango, calamansi (a citrus fruit native of the Philippines) and cubeb pepper (an Arabic spice widely used for flavoring in Indonesia) were joined on each plate by monkfish with sweet potato, spaghetti squash and a more traditional Thai coconut-infused curry. The sweetness of the thick curry complemented both the textures of the monkfish and the prawns. Paired with this course was a 2009 Austrian Biohof Pratsch Riesling from Niederösterreich, a crisp organic wine with hints of minerality yet clean pear flavors.
The third course combined four plates: veal cheeks with hard boiled quail eggs, crispy shallots and Thai chili; quail stuffed with forbidden rice and cabbage; lightly grilled Brussels sprouts and a plate of flavorful fried rice. Here, the rich sauce and the mouth feel of veal cheeks, the texture of the stuffed quail and Brussels sprouts along with softness of rice, seemed to all work together, as designed. Accompanying this course was a 2005 Domaine Saint Luc Syrah/Viognier, “L’Excellence de St. Luc”, Coteaux du Tricastin from Rhône, France.
As we moved along to the desert course, out came plates with exotic fruit; tapioca and dried longans, dates and almonds; along with individually served matcha cream puffs. The fragrant organic jasmine tea provided the aromatic background for the desert.
To everyone’s delight, Attila introduced the entire Embeya team. Bailli Jane Tracy acknowledged and thanked everyone for creating the evening for us, which gastronomically transported our group from the gloomy Chicago evening to a delightful exotic destination. She presented a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs platter to the team and thanked Maître de Table Restaurateur Attila Gyulai and his team for their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to our chapter.
Thank you Embeya for this unforgettable experience!
For those members who have not yet been to Embeya, the Embeya Experience is something quite unique. The décor first of all will seduce you. There is a very synchronous team in the kitchen led by Chef Thai Dang – formerly with RIA and L20. The progressive Asian menu represents Chef’s “creative re-tooling of the ubiquitous Asian concept, developing dishes based on a range of Asian ingredients, flavors and textures integrated with French technique.” The compelling creative results will be paired with foodcentric wines from Embeya’s own list.
Chicago Chaine member Professionnel de Table Attila Gyulai, Owner and Director, has been personally involved in the planning of our evening and is committed to ensuring that the menu is representative of Embeya’s philosophy as well as devising with Chef Thai some unique dishes for our evening. Attila brings deep experience of over 15 years (Elysian, Four Seasons).
Danielle Pizzutillo is the Beverage Director (formerly Bernard’s Bar at The Elysian) putting together exciting cocktails linking kitchen ingredients and techniques with the cocktail itself. Her “bite and sip” philosophy with the edible garnish brings a different kind of balance.
Embeya is THE opportunity this year to introduce serious prospects for our chapter. Capacity is large and Embeya will be ours for the evening. This is an exclusive opportunity to occupy the entire restaurant, interact with new, long-term and future friends with similar affinities reinforcing that Chaine Chicago is a vehicle for exploring gastronomic adventures in a leading culinary city in the United States.
I look forward to welcoming a large number for what will be an exciting experience and celebrating how the chapter joins forces with one of our professional members.