When I read that Trenchermen formerly served as the Luxor Turkish Bath House, I was intrigued. Fairly unfamiliar with such bath houses, my wild imagination conjured images inspired by one of my favorite Nancy Drew novels, The Mysterious Mannequin, where Nancy flies to Turkey and is met with a culture so rich she falls in love with the country. At dinner, I asked my friend Will what he knew about them (quick background, he is one of the smartest and most internationally-informed individuals I have ever met). He admitted that Turkish bath houses remind him of the mafia movies where naked, older men sit around and make sketchy "business" deals. This image fits in with the previous clientele in the 1930's, mainly Chicago politicians, but I think I prefer my Nancy Drew depiction...
The interior of the restaurant is both unique and fascinating. From the authentic brick wall to the rope lamp hanging in the southwest corner, the restaurant is an interesting mix of rustic and sophistication. Think lumberjack cabin and black-tie venue fusion. Sounds impossible? Trenchermen makes it happen and pulls it off with flawless execution.
Now for the food.. the Restaurant Week menu features four courses with a variety of options for diners with dietary restrictions and select food preferences. For the first course, I chose the wagyu beef tartare which consisted of toasted pumpernickel bread served with beef tartare, slightly hinted with olive. It was absolutely exquisite and hands-down the best beef tartare I've had in Chicago.
I went with the gnocchi for the second course and was not disappointed. The tender pork belly was served with kimchi bolognese with nori added for a bit of color. The dish was seasoned with a hint of shiso, an Asian plant of the mint family. The gnocchi was quite possibly my favorite dish of the night although the next course proved to be an excellent challenger. My third and main course was the soupe de poisson which combined octopus, white fish and steamed mussels in a creamy rouille sauce. The dish was absolutely exceptional and altogether quenched my Norwegian love of fresh seafood. Everyone knows you can't claim Norwegian heritage if you don't enjoy fish, although my father's disdain for lutefisk has always made me question that saying..
For dessert, I chose the dark chocolate brulee served with a side of Macadamia nut ice cream. Although not on the menu available online, this dish was the perfect ending to a fantastic meal. The bitterness of the dark chocolate combined well with the slight saltiness of the Macadamia. Overall, I was extremely impressed with each of the four courses and would definitely recommend Trenchermen to anyone looking for an elegant, upscale dinner in Chicago.
As they say in Turkish, it's "iyi yemek" (good food).
Until next meal,
First Course: Wagyu Beef Tartare
Second Course: Gnocchi
Main Course: Soupe de Poisson
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Brulee