10/10/2012 11:50:00 AM

It’s Not A Mirage, It’s a Five Star Review

In his eight years as a critic for Time Out Chicago, David Tamarkin has eaten at scores of restaurants. He’s loved them, he’s hated them but he’s never adored one enough to pass along a coveted five star rating. That is, until he ate at The Peninsula’s the Lobby, under the guidance of new executive chef Lee Wolen.

Tamarkin teased a few days ago on Twitter that he was dropping a five-star bomb. Rumors swirled about which restaurant would receive the honor. Would it be Embeya, Carriage House, maybe Elizabeth or a greasy ethnic dive on Devon? No, it was a place that deserved it more, due to sheer unexpectedness and perseverance.

Wolen returned to Chicago after working as sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. He also did stints at El Bulli in Spain as well as Moto and Butter in Chicago. Not a bad looking resume. He was lured back by the promise of an executive position at Avenues, The Peninsula’s elite restaurant that launched the careers of Graham Elliot and Curtis Duffy. However, with high demands for a new event space, Avenues was turned into a ballroom and Wolen was left with the kitchen of the Lobby. Rather than shrivel in disappointment, Wolen’s soulful food shined with perfect roast chicken and succulent lamb.

Did the simple approach to upscale cuisine pay off? Check out the review.

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