Monday, November 18, 2002
Maître Rôtisseur, Proprietor Michael Lachowicz
The Purist Chef
To get to Les Deux Gros in Glen Ellyn it is necessary to drive forty miles west of Chicago. Almost all that’s left of the original restaurant and its springboard to fame is the sign outside, depicting two bulky chefs in kitchen whites. It has recently undergone decorative metamorphosis, modeling its ambience and culinary philosophy after the legendary Jean Banchet’s Le Français. Banchet disciple, Michael Lachowicz, never strayed from the Carême/Escoffier Grand Cuisine Française style. There was no fusion, no exotic influence, no fluff.
A Kir Royal was served during the reception. Chevalier Richard Kruger gave the toast and then Michael and brother Tom were out of the gate. Opening the dinner was a foie gras roulade coated in a white-breadcrumb beignet served with a truffled morel sauce, and accompanied by a pink Pol Roger champagne.
The brightly colored lobster chartreuse ‘Patrick Chambert’ again displayed a dedication to Le Français, naming the dish after this sous chef who worked for Roland Liccione during his stint at the helm of the Wheeling icon. The carrot and zucchini crown achieved eye appeal as well as its practical use of holding the dish together. Inside, the warm lobster stuffing with a filet of Dover sole wrapped around it, brioche breadcrumbs and shitake and oyster mushrooms created a powerful impression. A well-chilled Bott Geyl Riesling 2000 clean and pure as a whistle accompanied it. Intermezzo came in the incarnation of a miniature duck consommé wearing an adorable pâte feuilleté cap. Chef Lachowicz gave commentary suggesting that we “imagine the controversy” in our mouths, and Caviste Charles Lockhart guided us through the wine choices.
Sheer breadth of talent coupled with a smouldering passion for his work befits the reputation of this prodigious, intense chef. There is always an aesthetic sensibility proving to be the underlying element dictating the formation of his dishes. It would seem that he takes mild ingredients and bolsters the surrounding components to such a point that the dish hovers on the cusp of “almost too much but not quite” - suggesting movement. The result ends up – together with clever wine pairing – as an intellectual and dedicated result.
The trio of duck, rabbit and Guinea hen was presented on the plate, each with its own sauce. The duck’s plum sauce and cabbage confit contrasted well with boned saddle of rabbit with veal jus, and a pheasant mousse elegantly flavored with smoked apple bacon. Fennel mobilized the palate readying it for the guinea hen only to be seduced by the Henri Gouges Nuits St. Georges 1983 Les Vaucrains.
The crêpe-like dough of a Tunisian feuille de brik had been formed into a pleated ‘Tuxedo’ for the ripened Cabicou cheese stuffed with black winter truffles. Triple virgin white truffle oil had been drizzled over the vanilla and lemongrass poached pear garnish resulting in a nutty aroma. Dessert came in the form of an apple surprise. The flavors within it hit many spots on the palate. It was sexy, warm, soft, and crispy and the 1998 Clos St. Theobald Riesling Vendanges Tardive tasted sweet yet astringent. Accolades were forceful for the sous chef, kitchen and waitstaff, Les Deux Gros themselves, the risks taken and the success of the evening.