Zealous Celebrates 19 Years [PHOTOS]
Celebrating 19 years as any business is a feat to be celebrated. When it's a restaurant that's reached that milestone it's even more so.
This year Zealous is doing just that. In 1994 the restaurant made Chicago Magazine's Best New Restaurant list. There are only three still open from that selection, and in the fine dining category Zealous is the last one standing. Chef/Owner Michael Taus, one of Charlie Trotter's earlier proteges, attributes that longevity to their dedication to the quality of both the food and the dining experience. "We have tried to stay cutting edge and creative with our menu yet still be accessible to a wide range of food lovers," he said.
The proof is in their 19th Anniversary Menu. It's a culinary tour of the restaurant's history, featuring five courses pulled from their menus over the years. I was invited to take this trip down memory lane with a guest, and I can see why Zealous stands the test of time.
We were welcomed with an amuse bouche of salmon with chives, followed by a first course of prosciutto and rice paper wrapped scallop with a housemade kim chee (1993). This was a delightfully surprising combination of flavors, and the testament to Chef Taus is that the traditionally spicy kim chee didn't overpower the delicate scallop.
The second course, from 2000, was a rich combination of grilled foie gras over spicy lobster toast and pineapple vinaigrette.
After that we had the most tender duck I've ever tasted. It was paired with black bean corn salsa, sweet corn bread, and a caramelized onion barbecue sauce. The dish dates back to their 1995 menu but was as fresh as their farm to table produce. While that philosophy is popular now, Taus has included that since the beginning.
The fourth course was a chilled fruit soup with papaya from 1997. I freely admit that, before trying it, I would not have ordered it. Now I want to go in specifically for this delicious dish!
Our final course was from 1999. Rich Valrhona Chocolate Ginger cake was accompanied by basil ice cream and rice pane cotto topped with dark chocolate drizzles. While I wasn't a fan of the pane cotto, the cake and ice cream were delicious.
The evening wrapped up with Mignardises of mini-macaroons and chocolate cupcakes.
Excellent service is a major component of a successful restaurant, and throughout the dinner Andrew and Eddie proved that Zealous recognizes this. They both recommended cocktails at the start of the meal, and then Andrew brought us perfectly paired wines.
Zealous is offering this special five-course dinner through September 30. The price is $85 per person and wine pairings are $50. In addition to the menu they also have a la carte items that have been favorites over the last 19 years. Bring in a bottle of wine from 1993 and they'll waive the corkage fee.
Congratulations, Chef Taus and Zealous!