Monday, February 23, 2009

Signature Room at the 95th – Valentine’s Day Dinner @ Downtown Chicago

S and I decided to go to Chicago for Valentine’s Day and dine at the lavish Signature Room at the 95th for this was our first Valentine’s Day together. Last year, S had already travelled to the US while I was in India prepping up for our upcoming wedding.

It is not always that we dine at expensive restaurants, of course, only if you count out the few times we went out with friends who are high up in the career ladder and always prefer eating at expensive gourmet restaurants. And of course, the special night when S proposed to me. So, we decided to save our special, cozy, romantic, lavish, darn-expensive, gourmet dinner for Valentine’s Day.

When we called and made reservations, the courteous woman told us that we could ‘choose’ between a special prix fixe menu or go with the regular – of course, the prix fixe was priced at an enormous $95 per person! Obviously, we decided to stuff ourselves up at Cheesecake Factory downstairs, and then move on to the 95th level. You know how they serve ‘gourmet’ on your plates – lots of decorations, too little food. But by the time we reached John Hancock Building, it was already time for our reservation so we decided to take the plunge.

We were terribly disappointed when they told us they couldn’t offer a table with a view. We had specifically mentioned that we would need a corner table with a downtown view, and the supposedly courteous lady ‘lied’ that it would be taken care of. We hesitantly took the centre row table – bummer number 1.

When the waiter brought us our menu, we realized it was the prix fixe! When we asked for the regular menu, he said it was a Valentine’s special menu and we did not have a choice – what a liar that woman was – bummer number 2.

So we decided, what the hell, we’re paying $95 per person for a table with a view, hell yeah, a view of couples falling all over each other and making out. S was tempted to leave, but we decided to play along and give it a try.

This was the special Valentine’s Menu –
$95 per person plus tax and gratuity.
(Choose one item from each course)
Grilled Prosciutto & Mozzarella
(toasted sourdough; tomato marmalade)
Seared Sea Scallops
(white bean hummus; balsamic teriyaki)
Spiced Gnocchi
(roasted winter squash; chestnut fondant)

Soup or Salad
Mixed Greens Salad
(market vegetables; sherry vinaigrette)
Lobster Bisque
(jumbo lump crab; chervil crème frâiche)

Main Course
Petite Filet of Beef
(Yukon gold potato puree, glazed carrots; red wine reduction)
Sauteéd Scottish Salmon
(fingerling potatoes, roasted onions; whole grain mustard butter)
Roasted Natural Chicken
(organic grits, triple cream brie cheese, chanterelle mushrooms; sherry)
Winter Pasta
(broccoli, cauliflower, crispy shallots; cheddar & brown butter sauce)

Dessert Selection
Carrot Cake
(raisin puree)
White & Chocolate Mousse Cake
(raspberry sauce)
Key Lime Tart
(poached strawberries; lime coulis)

Gourmet Coffee and Tea Selections

And of course, this came with a glass of champagne – yes, just one flute. So for the first course, S and I ordered the Spiced Gnocchi and the Seared Sea Scallops – the Gnocchi was just okay. Dressy and all pretty looking, but it didn’t taste half as heavenly as Maggiano’s Gnocchi. The Seared Sea Scallops was good indeed – but of course, as any traditional gourmet appetizer, they were both just a 3 piece serving.

For the second course, S and I obviously had no choice – I was going green (have been doing so since the start of the year) and S despises sea food. So we both ended up with the Market Salad – definitely not something you can’t toss up at home. Nothing exquisite. Just a very very basic salad with no exotic cheeses on the side, nothing but salt and pepper that we had to ground ourselves. What a disappointment!

For the third course, S ordered the Roasted Natural Chicken, and I went for the Winter Pasta. By this time, we were pretty much expecting the worst. But we were taken by utter surprise – the Winter Pasta was delicious. Perhaps owing to the fact that S and I had our taste buds killed with the first two courses, we were taken by sweet surprise with the main course, who knows! I had to save some of the Winter Pasta for S, he wasn’t quite happy with his chicken. And by this time, we were pretty stuffed up. That sure was something we hardly expected from a gourmet, up class, pricy, hyped restaurant that serves teeny tiny portions.

We were pretty confused about the fourth course. We had just finished gobbling up some delicious Carrot Cake the previous week (home-made), so that was ruled out. I had my mind made up on the White & Chocolate Mousse Cake, so S decided to order the Key Lime Tart. When the waiter brought our desserts, my Mousse Cake was right alright, but he accidentally brought the Carrot Cake for S. So we returned it and repeated our order. And just as the waiter vanished away from our vicinity, S decided to change his mind looking at my Mousse Cake! So when he finally came back with the Key Lime Tart, we apologized profusely and asked for another Mousse Cake. I sincerely hope the chef hadn’t spat on S’s dessert. The dessert was heavenly. It completely overpowered the first and second courses.

We knew if we gobbled up this gourmet stuff, we’d have to leave the restaurant in no time. The room was full, there were people waiting for tables – people with reservations! So the waiters were pretty quick in their service. But we weren’t going to go away that easy considering the bill that we were dreading. So we enjoyed our food in nibbles, with small sips of champagne and plenty of pictures in between and a lot of chit-chatting and looking around. And despite all that, we still lasted just about 2 hours.

Would we revisit Signature Room at the 95th? Only if someone else foots the bill. Only for the dessert. Only for the Winter Pasta, if it is featured in the regular menu. Then again, we would rather visit Maggiano's any day for fine Italian.

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