The Park 52 Experience

Every month Chef’s Table visits a different restaurant, and each restaurateur picks and chooses what they wish to highlight. Park 52, March’s selected restaurant, managed to provide the entire experience, above and beyond what any of us expected.

 

Attendees were invited to the private room in the back and each was greeted with a menu and a $10 certificate, which could be used over the next year or later that night if they wanted to stay for dinner. That in itself was a nice touch. Then Dawn, the marketing manager, greeted everyone with a mango berry martini. My co-host Dan (Tweating Out) and I watched how quickly she would appear with drinks for each new group of guests. As everyone arrived we were served smoked salmon on brioche toast, ricotta & spinach wontons, and vegetable spring rolls. (I could have eaten an entire tray of the spring rolls myself.) Those three appetizers, with the exception of baguettes as palate cleansers during the wine tasting, were supposed to be the extent of the food for the evening.

 

We moved next to the open kitchen as a jazz band performed in the upstairs open room that overlooked the restaurant, and Chef Alain introduced himself. Not only is he the Chef, he’s the sommelier, and his resume includes international experience as well as two of Chicago’s top spots, Trotters and NoMi. Because of the band it was a little difficult to hear, but we all crowded around the tables as he discussed and poured the wines.

 

Although it was a wine tasting, Chef Alain’s pours were generous, at least 4 oz each. All of the wines were from South Africa and he explained the reasons he chose them, including the incredible value they represent. During these economic times that was greatly appreciated.

 

The pours, the education, and the intimate experience with such an expert would have been more than enough to satisfy everyone there. And then the foie gras came out. An enormous serving was passed around to cleanse our palates (foie gras – to cleanse a palate!). Then later, the Chef’s signature Samurai Steak, a thrice-marinated, delicious, tender cut of beef. We were also given individual ramekins of his Shrimp and Grits. Several of us were tempted to throw decorum out the window and lick the bowls.

 

Park 52, Dawn, and Chef Alain created a memorable, wonderful evening. What was really telling was that after the event the
majority of the guests gathered at the bar and talked about how
wonderful everything had been. If Chef’s Table is any indication, Park 52 provides a level of passion, service and dedication to quality that elevates dinner to an experience, and not just a meal.


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