Wednesday, March 17, 2010

June Restaurant

We dined at June Restaurant in Peoria Heights recently, a restaurant which has received much praise from both local media and the Wall Street Journal.
We arrived early, about 5:45 on a weeknight and were able to get a table without a wait.
Our dining experience took about two hours, and by the time we left business had picked up quite a bit.
The decor at June was simple and contemporary in style with soothing colors, concrete floors and nature-inspired artwork.
Even the table settings were simple, yet elegant.
Our server was knowledgeable about the wine list, the menu items and the food preparation methods, which include Sous-vide, slow cooking under pressure in a heated water bath.
The ingredients for many of the menu items are from local farms, which I think is great. Not only are local ingredients likely to be fresher, the support of local farms helps them prosper, which in turn can make these items more readily available.
We selected a bottle of Albak Tempranillo wine and sampled that while still pondering our dinner choices.
We were also served some of the breads baked in house daily, a ciabatta bread and a black olive bread.
After hearing from our server about the farm fresh egg on the first course menu, we decided to share that prior to dinner.
He described the egg as being cooked for about an hour and a half, placed on homemade brioche and topped with fresh herbs, hollandaise, bacon and shiitake mushrooms smoked with espresso beans.
The egg was extremely soft and fresh tasting, the brioche nicely crisped and the bacon had a good smoky flavor. The espresso smoke flavor of the shiitakes was a bit strong for our tastes.
We selected our dinner entrées, Branzino (sea bass) for me and a New York strip for my husband, and were not planning on having a second course item until the waiter mentioned a mozzarella salad, which we agreed to share. I don't recall the entire description of the dish, but the description of the cheese was very appealing, especially to us cheese lovers, and the dish had sunchokes, which we had to have a refresher on.
When this dish arrived we found the cheese to be wonderfully creamy and smooth, the plate sprinkled with fresh herbs and balsamic. The dish also included a caramelized onion garnish bursting with flavor. The sunchokes were prepared chip style and scattered throughout.
The kitchen at June is open to the main dining room, and most tables have a clear view of everything going on there. This also allowed us to experience several of the tantalizing scents the food preparation was generating.
Once our entrées arrived, we found that every element of them was notable, and we ended up passing our forks back and forth across the table so each could experience everything.
My Branzino had an amazing meaty yet tender texture, the thinly-sliced chorizo and sauce served with it was wonderful and the chickpea spaetzle was great.
My husband's New York strip (aged 45 days) had such a buttery texture it almost melted in your mouth and could easily be cut with a fork, topped with a smoky au jus and served with a seasoned potato puree, accompanied by carrots and other root vegetables.
Throughout our meal our server would stop by and top off our wine glasses without being intrusive, checking to see how everything was.
The food portions were reasonable enough that we could eat every last morsel and still consider dessert without being miserable.
After hearing the dessert offerings from another member of the team who was taking care of us, I selected the dark chocolate pot de creme which was described as having some heat to it, if I recall correctly it was ancho pepper, and was topped with a smoked cherry mascarpone.
StfRon opted for the peanut butter cake with brown butter paired with homemade caramelcorn ice cream.
He especially enjoyed the caramelcorn ice cream.
My pot de creme started out very good, and first seemed rich and almost fudge like, the cherry mascarpone subtly flavored. By the time I was done, I was loving and raving about the spiciness, and the texture of the creme reminded me of a ganache. I drove home with the heat from the peppers still lingering on my palate, recalling a wonderful meal.
Our bill came to $178 pre-tip.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. We haven't had a dining experience anywhere near this caliber in close to two years, and even before that it was few and far between.

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