Chicago's reputation as ground zero for the molecular gastronomy movement overshadows the fact that it's still one of the best places in the country to score traditional high-end cuisine. And while classic spots like Charlie Trotter's
still shine brightly, a new chef, Christophe David of NoMI
, is leading the latest charge of haute, seasonally focused cooking in this city.
David grew up working the lines at Michelin three-star French cuisine palaces like Taillevent and Lucas Carton, and cooked with one of France's greatest chefs, Paul Bocuse. His attention to detail at NoMI, including serving gold leaf-flecked fudge mignardise and cooking up hearty sides dripping with mascarpone, cream and truffle oil, honors that past. And when the warmer months require lighter fare, David's unique vision shines in the form of frothy cold watermelon soup, perfumed with star anise, micro basil, dots of vanilla and a swirl of Banyuls vinegar, or langoustine risotto kissed with sweet corn foam.
What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/food scene?
Being French, I respect the cultural diversity of restaurants that Chicago cultivates. I hope that Chicago continues to be an international dining destination that allows foreign chefs to flourish and contribute to the culinary bounty of the Midwest.
What would your last meal be?
Kobe beef rossini with Perigord truffle sauce, preferably at The New York Grill on the 80th floor of Park Hyatt Tokyo, overlooking Mt. Fuji.
Where do you eat/drink before/after a shift?
During the summers, I enjoy visiting the Green City Market for fresh fruit crepes in the morning. I also enjoy the occasional beer in NoMI's garden after service or sometimes smoking a cigar at The Whiskey on State Street.
What's the can't-miss dish at NoMI?
The new lobster carpaccio. It will be available on the fall menu starting at the end of September. The lobster will be drowned in sake and sliced thin, served with yuzu-infused terrine. It's the NoMI team's favorite new dish.
What should we know about NoMI that we probably don't?
The name NoMI is short for North Michigan because the restaurant overlooks this well-known avenue from its seventh floor perch in the Park Hyatt Chicago. Secondly, NoMI is not a fusion restaurant, but a contemporary French restaurant with a sushi counter. Lastly, in addition to the main dining room there are three other distinct spaces, including NoMI Garden in the summer, NoMI Lounge, which serves cocktails and tapas-style food, and three different private dining rooms, each with their own separate ambiance.
Recipe: Carpaccio of sake-drunk lobster, lobster salad and yuzu vinaigrette
4 one-pound live lobster
4 750-milliliter bottles of sake
Maldon Sea Salt as needed
Lobster salad (see below)
Yuzu vinaigrette (see below)
Place the lobsters in as small a container as possible and cover completely with the sake. Marinate for at least eight hours. After eight hours, remove the claws from the lobsters and pour boiling water over them. Allow the claws to cook for about three minutes and then drain off the water. Remove the shells and reserve the claw and knuckle meat for the salad (see below). Carefully remove the tail meat from the shell in one piece. Slice the tail meat as thinly as possible and arrange one tail on each of four cold plates. Dress the Carpaccio lightly with the yuzu vinaigrette and top with equal portions of the lobster salad. Season lightly with Maldon Sea Salt.
Reserved lobster claw and knuckle meat (above)
1/4 cup carrot, fine julienne
1/4 cup diakon radish, fine julienne (and rinsed)
1/4 cup scallion, fine julienne
2 each of green shiso leaf, chiffonade
Combine everything in a bowl and keep chilled until ready to assemble the dish.
1/4 cup yuzu juice
5 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
6 tbsp. grape seed oil
Whisk everything together and taste. Adjust for seasoning.