Monday, January 23, 2012
MICHELIN-STARRED DINING IN SEPIA’S PRIVATE DINING SPACE
Four-year old Sepia has won a Michelin star for the past two years. We discovered why when we gathered in January in its new private dining room adjacent to the restaurant for our second Chaîne visit to this much-lauded restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop. Maître de Table Restaurateur Emmanuel Nony, Partner/Owner, welcomed us warmly with a toast to a good year in 2012. The film-worthy décor of the restaurant was echoed here in long centerpieces of driftwood, moss, and orchids and in the dramatic vintage photograph near the front, beneath which versatile musician Terry Higgins sat surrounded by a flugelhorn, a flute, three different saxophones, and a keyboard with which he serenaded us all evening long.
Appetizers included beef tartare with red curry and cilantro, agnolotti stuffed with veal, a Croque Madame featuring an egg yolk with black truffle atop a round of brioche, rabbit liver, and tuna served in a spoon, all paired with Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence NV from the oldest champagne house in existence (founded in 1584). The dinner menu was built around wines from our cellar and began with coriander-smoked hamachi enhanced with buttermilk, dill, apple, and pumpernickel flavors and accompanied by frecciarossa sillery pinot nero 2010. A much-praised dish was the uni incoporated into a custard topped by butter poached lobster with lobster dashi poured over it and paired appropriately with a fine sake—-huchu homare watari bune junmai ginjo 55 sake, ibaraki prefecture,Japan. (Watari bune is the rice used to make this sake). Canneloni prepared as in Barcelona with veal sweetbreads and a black truffle béchamel sauce was fabulous and was matched with a wine from northwestern Spain, scala dei les brugueres blanco, priorat 2010. Duck breast “Apicius,” a dish employing brown sugar, honey, soy sauce and star anise, is one I had adored in Paris and was delighted to encounter in Chicago. Here it was garnished with baby turnips and turnip greens and matched with another Spanish wine—-cellers fuentes gran clos de j.m. fuentes vinas pizarra, priorat 2000.
A lamb loin and crispy neck were served on a fried chickpea cake with eggplant jam and flavored with house-made vaudovan, a French spice redolent of curry. Lastly, a delicious course of caramelized sweet potato custard with yogurt cremeux, fig and apple compote, and walnut caramel was paired with a dessert wine from South Africa—-klein constantia vin de constance muscat 2005. Friandise included mango, hazelnut, orange chocolate, and macadamia toffee.
Commentary on the wines was provided by Vice-Echanson/Caviste-Cellarmaster Mon Roldan, while Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman discussed the cuisine. Bailli Jane Tracy thanked the chef for our six elegant courses, presented him with a decanter and a bottle of wine, and congratulated him on his Michelin star, renewed for the second year. She also thanked Sepia’s Wine Director Arthur Hon for sensitive pairings and presented him with a decanter and a bottle of sake. The entire staff for our festive dinner was then introduced and applauded.
123 N. Jefferson
Dress Code: Black Tie with Decorations
Our first dinner of 2012 will be in the new private dining space of SEPIA – located adjacent to the restaurant itself in the West Loop. The space is warm, stylish and open and has been cleverly designed featuring stunning Tony Duquette “sunburst” light fixtures and a portable turn-of the century walnut and pewter bar.
It is amazingly four years since Sepia opened and Maître de Table Restaurateur Emmanuel Nony, Partner/Owner, will once again welcome us to this exciting new and beautiful space and one of Chicago’s highly sought after dining destinations. Our friendship with Emmanuel goes back to the Park Hyatt and his industry experience is deep. His professionalism has solidified Sepia’s success.
Nationally acclaimed Chef Andrew Zimmerman has gone from strength to strength and with passion. In 2010, he had the honor of cooking dinner at the James Beard House, and in 2011 was invited to take part in the high-profile national Cochon 555 tour, as well as Cochon Heritage Fire in Napa, CA. Chef Zimmerman was also the recipient of a Rising Star Chef Award by StarChefs.com in 2011, and nominated in the “Chef of the Year” category for the 2012 Jean Banchet Awards.
It has been quite a year for Sepia actually. Veteran film director Ron Howard chose the restaurant to shoot some scenes for his movie The Dilemma and which featured and showcased Sepia in an authentic way. Then came the coveted Michelin Star rating in 2011 which has been retained in the 2012 Chicago Red Guide.
Expect a sophisticated and delectable evening.