Deca, the restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, is a Michelin Bib Gourmand winner and they recently welcomed Executive Chef Martin Knaubert who previous worked as a chef at The Four Seasons kitchens all over the world (The Four Seasons owns The Ritz-Carlton Chicago). He was in Berlin, Florida, Hawaii, China, Syria, and Canada before coming to Chicago. He recently introduced a new menu at deca and it includes influences from all around the world. I was one of a very lucky few who was invited to dine at the Chef’s Table on it’s first night.
It was an evening that I will never forget, and since they let me sign the wall with a permanent marker, the Ritz-Carlton won’t be forgetting it either.
Upon arriving, we were lead through a maze of kitchens, and finally to the quiet kitchen in the back where we were greeted by Chef Knaubert and glasses of champagne. Then the first course, a creamy mushroom soup, arrived. It was filled with large chunks of whole mushrooms and was topped with a bit of creme fraiche which lightened it up.
After the soup, it was time for a snack. I was surprised that I liked the fried olives as much as I did. I am usually not a big fan of olives, but, I love just about anything that has been fried. The olives were stuffed with veal and arugula, and a smoked paprika aioli was served on the side. The slightly spicy aioli really brought everything together, and balanced out the olive’s strong taste.
Then trout with a smoked sour cream was served. The smoked sour cream was inventive and complimented the trout perfectly. Enthusiastic chatter of how much everyone loved this could be heard as soon as everyone had their first bite.
The beautiful plates used to serve the trout had just been flown in from Germany that day.
My favorite dish of the evening as the Charred Asparagus with Blackened Tuna, Bonito, Miso and a Poached Egg. The tuna was superbly cooked- blacked on the outside and rare on the inside. The poached egg, and runny yolk added richness, while the asparagus gave the dish an earthy taste and more crisp texture. This dish was interesting without being over the top, and showed skill at balancing vastly different ingredients.
After attending some of the best food events in Chicago, I was left wondering why no one was doing anything interesting with chicken. I know that might sound silly, but the pork trend has gotten a little out of control lately, and doing something really great with chicken would add some much needed variety. Chef Knaubert must have heard me, because his Chicken Tagine with Harissa and Organic Vegetables was just what I have been craving. Chicken Tagine is a Moroccan casserole made in a dish called a tagine, and it has a flavorful broth and large chunks of vegetables. At deca, the Chicken Tagine is available in two sides, a whole chicken, and a half chicken.
When he introduced this dish, Chef Knaubert said that he was very inspired by his time working in the Middle East and he thought that part of the world has the strongest food culture.
The meal ended with a duo of desserts. The most memorable was the fried lemon curd. It was served with a lightly fried dough and I enjoyed the contrast with the thick creamy lemon curd.
The chef’s table at deca can be reserved by calling deca. The Chef will work with guests to create a custom menu. The Chef’s Table at deca would be a fitting location for a special celebration. Deca also has a full schedule of events for the holidays, including Thanksgiving dinner, brunch on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and a New Years Eve Party.