There are kitchens and then there are KITCHENS. The kitchen at Travelle restaurant in the Langham Hotel is a sight to behold, a true theater for the diners to experience as the chefs create their dishes down each side of the line that projects into the restaurant from this three-sided glass stage. The long line -- longer than any I have seen before -- allows for better communication between chefs and a visual site line to what each is doing. And it is pristine, almost jewel-like, glimmering behind brilliant lights, sparking fires and shimmering glass.
As fancy an affair as this might seem to be -- and it is, complete with sleek lines, mid-century modern decor and floor to ceiling windows that could only be found in a landmark Mies van der Rohe building -- Travelle has a wonderful groundedness to its cuisine.
Travelle is headed up by Executive Chef Tim Graham, previously Tru's Executive Chef for 10 years. Graham calls the dishes "inspired interpretations of the Mediterranean," which most of us would think would mean Italian. Not so! Through his food, I was reminded that the Mediterranean can be anything from Southern France to Italy, Northern Africa, Greece, Turkey and Syria. In all, there are 21 countries that touch the Mediterranean and Graham naturally leads his diners on a whirlwind tour with spices, re-imagined ethnic fare and classy combinations that intrigue and delight, with a wine list to match. Of course there are wine selections from France and Italy, but there are also options from Lebanon, with refined, yet exotic food pairings that aim to satiate.
I asked Chef Graham how, with such a long list of country influences, he could keep up.
I changes small dishes every two to three weeks. The larger menu focus we change every Spring and Fall to go with the seasons and what is fresh. Once I create a new dish, it takes a couple of weeks of preparing to really hone in on it.
It isn't just keeping up with all the different influences that are a challenge. Since Travelle is located in the Langham Hotel, that means breakfast, lunch and dinner and 24-hour room service. Ouch!
Chicago's culinary landscape is quite vast and Graham had an interesting take on what Travelle brings to the table.
You see Italian, French or Greek restaurants, but you don't see pan-Meditteranean menus, taking influence from the whole region. It is something you will probably see more of in the future, but we wanted to be the first to draw inspiration from the many countries that surround that sea.
On The February 17th Dinner Party, Chef Graham will make Cumin Three Beet Salad, Goat Cheese Mouse with Quinoa, Tangerines and Pistachios (see video below) and Piri-Piri Chicken on Scarlett Runner Beans Sofrito and Piri-Piri jus. His fellow guests on The Dinner Party will be Lookingglass Artistic Director, Andy White, funny lady Susan Messing with Rachael Mason, designer Jordan Mozer and Anna Fermin will be the opening act.
In addition to the food, enjoy the video below to get a good look at a kitchen like no other!