Each week, Top Chef is a little escape for me. I pretty much tune out everything else and become absorbed in the competition. So, imagine my excitement when one of my favorite cheftestants, Dale Levitski, became executive chef at a restaurant in Chicago!
Dale was an easy contestant to root for. He always seemed to be such a nice guy who was fun-loving and adventurous in the kitchen. His passion for cooking and ability to create unique combinations are clearly reflected in his offerings at his restaurant, Sprout.
My husband and I have been to Sprout on three occasions. The first two times, the restaurant was amazing. The third visit had some shining points but was a bit lackluster. We are attributing this to Dale not being there that night. (How dare he take the night off! :) )
This restaurant is not for kids! Sprout's atmosphere is contemporary, yet elegant. Its elegance is definitely worthy of a sophisticated night out. The prix fixe menu further adds to the sophistication of the night. (And, at $65, the prix fixe menu is probably the best priced in all of Chicagoland!)
The meal offers a unique experience, something to be truly appreciated. Just one glance at the menu and you will see ingredients such as golden beet, brandade, picholine, fennel, chanterelle, rabbit, venison, octopus, speck, and hibiscus. I don't even know what some of those ingredients are--clearly evidence that we have entered a top chef's kitchen!
For the prix fixe meal, you will be served an appetizer, an intermezzo, a main course, a cheese course, and a dessert. For the larger dishes--the appetizer, main course, and dessert--the elements are composed quite exquisitely on the plate. Each dish is its own adventure. I like trying to pick out each and every component. Every dish seems to have some component that I am not sure will work with the rest of the dish. I love to challenge my palate and to see if I can discover how the elements can work together. Of course, some things don't work--at least for me--but that is part of the fun!
I have always enjoyed the appetizers that I have had at Sprout. During this last visit, I had a shrimp dish with black eyed peas. I loved it! For the intermezzo, we had a cauliflower soup. It also was excellent!
For my main course, I had venison with a blackberry sauce. This course was so-so to me. It seemed a little too sweet---I think that I was looking for something a little more savory.
For the cheese course, we were served one of Dale's specialties--his grilled cheese. The grilled cheese is composed of an aged cheddar with granny smith apples. The outer edges of the cheese are grilled to a crisp. The sandwich is paired with a dijon mustard concoction and a shot of cider. I loved the grilled cheese--I am a fan of crispy cheese and I like how it goes with the dijon. However, I am not a big fan of its placement in the meal. Instead of preparing my palate for the dessert, it left me with a salty taste.
For dessert, I had "Lime," which had a ginger crisp, goat cheese cake, and lime jelly and sorbet. Individually, I liked the components. However, I could not quite get how they all came together?Somehow, though, I ate most of it. There definitely was something addictive about it!
Sprout's menu changes regularly, providing a new culinary adventure for each visit. I have had blackened cod, some pear soup, and a beet dessert. My husband has had pork, a licorice salad, and, of course, the pear soup (which was to die for!). With such a range of inventive dishes, Sprout is always providing an adventure for one's palate. I find Sprout to be a great place to expand my horizons while spending some quality time with my fellow foodies (especially my hubby).