Even at 30, Everest till among the city's best

Even at 30, Everest till among the city's best

Chicago Tribune |
Feb 3, 2017

When a restaurant reaches the 30-year milestone, it’s natural for the chef to take a look back and savor the journey. Unless you’re Jean Joho, a chef whose mantra is, “What’s good enough for me today isn’t good enough for me tomorrow,” and a man who never looks back.

Well, maybe a little.

Like to October 1986, Everest’s first week in business.

“I remember (then-Tribune critic) Mark Knoblauch came into the dining room. I was open for four days, and I thought, ‘My God, what happened?’ And my English was so bad,” said the Alsace-born chef.

Apparently, nothing was lost in translation. After a few more visits, Knoblauch hung four stars on Everest, then 3 months old, predicting that Joho’s collaboration with Lettuce Entertain You founder Rich Melman “may turn out to be one of the most inspired partnerships in Chicago restaurant history.”

That launched an unbroken string of four-star accolades for Joho (spoiler alert: I’m not going to break the string today) and his 40th-floor restaurant, which combines a majestic city view with dishes so beautifully composed that one sometimes forgets to admire the view.

Decision-making at Everest is never terribly taxing. Diners choose among three- and four-course tastings, selecting dishes from some 10 appetizers (not including the caviar-based dishes, which carry a supplemental charge) and eight main courses, or surrender completely and select the day’s degustation of six chef-selected courses.

A six-course degustation seems almost quaint in an era of 12-course (and more) tastings, but Joho always has preferred to keep his stories short.

“When you’re sitting for so long and taste too much, your stomach and whole body tires,” he said. “And too many courses makes it very difficult with the wine (pairings).”

Joho’s shorter menu doesn’t mean less food, however. To the contrary, portions tend to be substantial, and even dishes that look smallish … well, though Joho’s creations are invariably light on the tongue, let’s concede that the man isn’t counting calories.

I do understand the two-bites-and-I-get-it approach — it’s the way most critics, who want to taste absolutely everything, like to eat — but there’s something to be said for dishes on which you’re able to spend a little time. Joho’s venison loin, for instance, which consists of two hefty medallions graced with cocoa nibs and wild-huckleberry jus, flanked by a bit of braised cabbage, splayed slices of spiced pear and, in a side dish, spiced knepfla (Alsatian dumplings). I’ve had duck-breast entrees that consisted of three slices, and enjoyed them; the duck that arrived at my table (bathed in a light cardamom-accented sauce) had seven.

As part of the restaurant’s 30-year celebration last month, Joho created a degustation menu of dishes of 1986 staples, including his sublime “black and white” dish of squid-ink risotto (Joho was probably the first chef in Chicago to use imported carnaroli rice exclusively) topped with pure-white hoops of tender squid; and the banana terrine, at the time Joho’s rebuttal to the ubiquitous creme brulee, a square of chocolate-barded banana terrine topped with maple-cap ice cream (maple cap is a mushroom that smells and even tastes of maple) and a sugar-dusted arlette cookie.

The throwback menu proved so popular that Joho concedes he may have to bring back one or two dishes from time to time, but there is no shortage of excellence among the current offerings, beginning with the stellar Maine lobster salad, a towering composition of lobster meat on an artichoke-heart base, surrounded by mini-pools of lobster emulsion inlaid with blood-orange sauce. Lobster also stars in a presse (terrine) with potato brandade. Another terrine features slowly cooked game bird (duck, pheasant, quail) alongside beet diamonds dotted with apple-carrot aigre doux, and splashes of truffle vinaigrette forming little commas on the plate.

Foie gras, again in impressive portion, gets a sweet-sour treatment from beet verjus and persimmon sauce and is topped with bee pollen and spice-cake croutons. Beef Wellington arrives as a thick slice (exposing the mushroom duxelles layer and perfectly pink beef, graced with Maldon salt flakes) over a light veal jus in which dots of bearnaise sauce have been pulled.

Service, never a problem at Everest, is even more on-point than I’d remembered, particularly concerning wine service. Everest’s wine list includes the sort of vintages that make you wish you’d bought Apple stock in the early ’80s, but there are affordable options, and wine director and sommelier Jen Schmitt makes the search easy. Or you can opt for wine pairings ($98; $145 premium pours) with any menu.

As I’ve said before, one doesn’t merely arrive at Everest; one ascends.

From the subterranean parking garage (free indoor valet, thank you), it’s a quick elevator ride to the lobby security desk, and a more leisurely climb to the 39th floor to access the private elevator to 40, where a narrow corridor opens to the splendor of Everest’s bilevel dining room, the elegant but understated decor (long gone are the original animal-print wall treatments and leopard-spot carpeting, which I miss only a little), the beautiful Ivo Soldini bronze sculptures (no two alike) topping each table. The room instantly justifies the effort expended in reaching it, and that’s before “les preludes” (three to four pre-meal nibbles, presented at once) hit the table.

Thirty years is a milestone achievement for any restaurant. For a restaurant to remain at the top of its game after 30 years? Extraordinary.

pvettel@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @PhilVettel

Everest

440 S. LaSalle St.

312-663-8920

www.everestrestaurant.com

Tribune rating: Four stars

Open: Dinner Tuesday to Saturday

Prices: Six-course degustation, $165; three- and four-course prix-fixe menus $98 and $130

Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V

Reservations: Strongly recommended

Noise: Hushed

Other: Wheelchair accessible; complimentary indoor valet parking

Ratings key: Four stars, outstanding; three stars, excellent; two stars, very good; one star, good; no stars, unsatisfactory. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
A Gift Guide for the Food Lover in Your Life
Sep 4, 2018

Whether a birthday, graduation or any other of the countless holidays, we're here to make selecting…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce in Love: Weddings with Lettuce Parties
Feb 13, 2018

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Believe it or not it's a tale as old as time (or…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
It’s Apple Season: Where To Get Them and Where To Eat Them
Oct 19, 2017

Yeah, yeah, pumpkin this and pumpkin that, but let us not forget about our other favorite fall…

read more >
In The Restaurants
After 30 Years, Here Are 30 Things You Need to Know About Everest
Jan 4, 2017

  This month, Chef/ Proprietor J. Joho and the Everest team invite you to join us in…

read more >

Recent Posts

How To
How To Drink Wine Out of a Spanish-style Porron
Sep 23, 2018

The Catalonian tradition has officially come to Chicago! Bar Ramone, River North's newest spot…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Sep 21, 2018

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
New Detroit-Style Pan Pizza Rises at Stella Barra Hollywood
Sep 20, 2018

The Detroit-style pan pizza craze has swept the Midwest for years, and now, it has reached the West…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Brunch this Weekend
Sep 20, 2018

If you're anything like us, you plan your weekend around brunch. Here is your guide to all of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Celebrate Oktoberfest with this Festive Kickoff Party at Hub 51
Sep 19, 2018

With fall, we see the arrival of apple-picking, pumpkin spice-flavored everything and best of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Late Night & Live Music with Lettuce
Sep 19, 2018

Night owls rejoice - select Lettuce restaurants and nightclubs offer everything from late-night food…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Best Spots for Group Dining
Sep 18, 2018

You finally got the whole crew to agree on the same day and time, now you just have to find the…

read more >
How To
This Secret Ingredient Will Take Your Guac to the Next Level
Sep 18, 2018

El Segundo Sol serves up some of the freshest, most authentic Mexican food on the Las Vegas Strip,…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Cooking and Dance Classes To Improve Your Skills
Sep 17, 2018

Ever wanted to learn how to cook like a chef or dance like a pro? We offer a variety of ongoing and…

read more >
How To
A Few Of Our Favorite Game Day Recipes
Sep 14, 2018

When you are in the mood to get your hands dirty in the kitchen for hosting your crew or solo…

read more >
In The Restaurants
5 Ways to Play Summer Scratch Off
Sep 13, 2018

Summer is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Lucky for you, you can play…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Sep 12, 2018

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!