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Windy City's Top Pick by Kaya Morgan

Only one name comes to mind when considering the best place to dine in Chicago. Ask anyone from your local taxi driver to the highly knowledgeable hotel concierge, and the answer is always unequivocally, the same. Touted as the city’s "temple of gastronomy," an evening at Tru’s in downtown Chicago can easily put you into sensory overload.

Still the proverbial new kid on the block, Tru opened its doors in 1999 as a combined dream of three of the country’s most creative restaurateurs – Richard Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a highly recognized conglomerate of select restaurants from around the country, and award-winning, partners Rick Tramonto, executive chef, and Gale Gand, famed pastry chef.

Tramonto’s 21-year, ambitious career undeniably has been a climb to the stars. He has come a long way from the humble beginnings of his teenage years as a fast food cook with Wendy’s Hamburgers rising to the famed Tavern on the Green as garde-manager chef.

Tutelage abroad exposed Tramonto to some of the world’s greatest chefs including Anton Mosimann, Michel Guerard and Raymond Blanc. Yet, it was his own unbridled creativity, that brought him a prestigious nomination by the James Beard Foundation in 2001 as Best Chef, and the Best New Restaurant in 2000.

His unique culinary style and passion for food has also brought the restaurant some of the most outstanding awards in the industry such as Conde Nast Traveler’s list of "Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World," top recognition as America’s Rising Star Chefs by Robert Mondavi, and Food & Wine’s "Top Ten Best New Chefs in the country."

Second to none, Gand’s desserts have consistently received stellar reviews. As a guest on Julia Child’s PBS, "Baking with Julia," her individual awards in 2000 as "Outstanding Pastry Chef" by the James Beard Foundation as well as the highly coveted, James Beard Award for "Dolce Outstanding Pastry Chef" brings her continued recognition as one of the finest pastry chefs in the country.

Gand is also the spokesperson for many well-know products including Bailey’s Irish Cream, The American Dairy Farmer’s, Real Butter and Cheese campaigns, Farberware, Chef’s Catalog, The American Dairy Association’s Milk Mustache campaign and Chefwear. She hosts her own Food Network show, "Sweet Dreams," a dazzling array of delicious desserts that viewers can prepare along with Gand during the show.

Her outstanding efforts in the creation of the cookbook, Butter Sugar Flour Eggs, awarded the Best Desserts Cookbook in 2001, was also a featured fall title for the Book of the Month Club. And her latest book project, Just a Bite, was released in October 2001.

Once inside, the ambiance is warm and intimate with softly lit areas and cozy furnishings of rich blue velvet banquettes and ethereal white drapes. A dynamic staircase almost whisks guests up to the private mezzanine dining room where they can have their own little piece of privacy. And, the height of class, no cellular hone use is allowed.

Although the foundation is French, the food is a collage of flavors and techniques gathered from around the world and blended with the chef’s own special flair. Tru’s 900-bottle global wine list is truly impressive. The regular menu is a three-course, fixed price. But, not to worry, the collection is so perfectly combined that you will find it hard to keep your feet on the ground.

With twelve appetizers to choose from including seared diver scallop, lobster Vin Blanc, seared Hudson valley Foie Gras, the caviar staircase or black truffle risotto studded with diced lobster and fava beans, any choice would be the right one. The luxury presentations offered by the spectacular main course menu, or the complex, cosmopolitan creations of the tasting menu comprised of seared Alaskan halibut, smoked goose breast, grilled ostrich loin or rabbit with herb spaetzle and morel mushrooms will undoubtedly take you to new gastronomic heights!

Chef Tramonto’s Collection, a special favorite, combines nine spontaneous courses as the chef’s personal selection for the day — true flamboyant excess! And, of course, Gand’s final touch of sweet summer corn crème brûlée, roasted pineapple carpaccio or the duet of soufflés is quite simply "magnifique." Is it any wonder that Tru is the name on the lips of many Windy City residents and visitors alike?

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Lentils, Grilled Radicchio and Bacon Vinaigrette

Poached Salmon:
1 lb. Salmon fillets
2 t salt
1 t pepper
4 c olive oil

Cut into 4 equal pieces then season with salt and pepper. In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil to 160 degrees and place salmon pieces to continue poaching for 15-20 minutes, until the salmon flakes apart.

Grilled Radicchio:
1 head radicchio
3 c port wine
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T olive oil

Cut the radicchio head in half and remove the core. Pull apart the leaves to separate them. In a sauce pan heat the port to a simmer and add radicchio. Reduce head and simmer for 20 minutes to wilt the leaves. Remove the leaves and lightly pat them dry. Toss in olive oil then grill on both sides until tender.

Bacon Vinaigrette:
1/4 lb. Back bacon
1.5 t sherry wine vinegar

Dice bacon into small squares. In a saute pan, cook the bacon pieces until crispy. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sherry wine vinegar. Set aside and keep warm.

Braised Lentils:
1 lb. Lentils
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 c diced bacon

Sauté the bacon until almost crisp. Add carrots, celery and onions and continue to sauté until slightly tender. Add lentils and water to the pan and simmer until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve:
Place the grilled radicchio in the center of the plate. Assemble the salmon on top of that, then place a large spoonful of lentils on top. Drizzle the bacon vinaigrette around the salmon and serve.

Serves 4

For reservations call 312.202.0001 or

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