Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lobby at The Peninsula

Location: 108 E Superior
Cost: Normally around $85 per person for a tasting menu

A few months into starting JEC, I started receiving offers for "promotional" posts. The first one I did was a disaster. I went to this restaurant I'd never heard of for lunch in the middle of the week. Everyone was in a suit, and I rolled in with my book bag, wearing jeans, flip flops, and a t-shirt. The food was good though.

Fast forward to last week. The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel invited me to check out one of the installations in their Chef Series. Basically, once a month, a guest chef comes in to help make a rather creative and swanky five-course meal. This month Chef de Cuisine, Lee Wolen, got a hand from Ryan Poli (Tavernita and Little Market). I knew a little better this time and wore a shirt and a tie. Most people were still in suits, but I stood out a little less this time.

Logistics
Despite living right around the corner, I never realized all of the dining options the Peninsula had to offer. The Lobby was set up with a bunch of communal tables. There was a duet playing classical versions of pop songs overhead. The whole vibe was very relaxed and elegant. The service was all perfectly timed. The cost is about $85. If you're worried that there's a bunch of little bites and you'll leave hungry, that's not the case at all here.

The Food
I didn't mention this above, but the theme of the night was Mediterranean. The first course was a Hamachi Crudo with avocado, cucumber, and jalapeno. It was an excellent, light way to get things started. The jalapenos didn't overpower the dish, and the fish had a smooth bite to it.

The Hamachi Crudo

Next up was a course of Grilled Spanish Octopus with celery, chorizo, and grapefruit. It wasn't chewy in the least, and the flavors came together nicely. There was one piece in my dish with a little char to it that really hit the spot.

The Grilled Spanish Octopus

After that we had a Slow poached Loup de Mere with potato and fennel. This was one of the tables favorites. The fish was extremely delicate and had this oiliness that pulled everything together nicely.

The Loup de Mere

The fourth course was Roasted Colorado Lamb Loin with chickpeas and eggplant. This was my favorite dish of the night. The lamb was a solid medium rare, and the chickpeas gave this wonderful Mediterranean feel to the whole dish.

The Roasted Lamb Loin

We finished things off with a Roasted Almond Panna Cotta with plum and thyme. The panna cotta was so smooth, and the roasted plums contrasted with the almond flavor to give this perfect sweet and savory combo.

The Almond Panna Cotta

Overall
This whole Chef Series at the Lobby is a pretty sweet gig. They've got one more left for the season on October 28th with Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Bart Toma, and Terzo Piano). It's almost sold out, but I think you'd enjoy getting one of the remaining spots. As far as my experience, I thought each course built off of the next very well and am excited to head back soon.

The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel on Urbanspoon

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