Restaurant Michael: A Quiet Oasis in Winnetka

Get thee to Restaurant Michael, “a Personal Creation by Chef Michael Lachowicz.”

That’s actually the restaurant tag line. And it is personal—that’s the beauty of it. Lachowicz, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) and veteran of Les Deux Gros, Cochon Sauvage, and Le Français, strives to provide a dining experience that has become increasingly rare.

“Nothing pretentious, just civilized … I want my guests to stop, breathe, and enjoy the evening,” he relayed in a recent interview.

We did just that at a recent visit, where we enjoyed the bounty of spring surrounded by a calm, inviting atmosphere. The seats are comfy, the colors rich, the linens and tableware pristine. It felt very grown up.

The one surprise was the Prix Fixe, available each night. For $48, you can choose any starter, an entrée and dessert. The Four-Course includes a second starter (perhaps a hot and a cold?) for $55. Either way, it’s a value, especially given the quality of the ingredients and the level of skill in the kitchen.

We swooned over the English Spring Pea Soup with Shredded Crab and Snow Pea Pods. It tasted like a garden in a bowl. Sadly, this is a very seasonal dish, but it’s obvious they know their soup. The Pan-Roasted Jumbo Diver Scallop layered with spinach, warm Brie and Tarragon Corn Blinis was scrumptious, the play of textures adept.

The Maryland Crab Cake and Orange-Dusted Prawns in a “slightly sweet” curry sauce proved a bit too sweet for our taste, especially combined with the roasted parsnip puree, but the seafood was impeccably fresh. We also enjoyed the Salade Nicoise with Five-Spice Seared Tuna and a poached quail egg, although it could have used a bit more dressing.

Our favorite entrée was the Filet of Wild Japanese Black Cod, served over creamy goat cheese polenta with an “eggless” Bearnaise sauce. This dish was a stunner; the cod was seared beautifully and the polenta was outrageous—finger-lickin’ good. Truthfully, there was finger licking, despite the posh surroundings. Please don’t mention that to anyone.

We also admired the Grilled Archer Farms Organic Quail stuffed with Veal Mousse, which was served over flageolet beans with bits of braised rabbit and topped with a Perigord Sauce. An elegant dish.

Loved the Baby Australian Lamb Chops over Brussels sprout leaves, figs and wild mushrooms, but not a big fan of the accompanying Osso Bucco Raviolo; the Duo of Roast Breast of Guinea Hen and Breast of Duck had a lovely spiced natural jus and Door County cherries, but the hen was a bit dry. The dish presentations throughout the meal were uniformly lovely, each appearing on a different type of china or serving piece.

Desserts, accompanied by full-bodied coffee, provided the coda to a wonderful meal. The Blueberry Charlotte and the Tahitian Vanilla Bean Duo of Panna Cotta and Crème Brulée with Lavender-Scented Berries were the clear winners.

The service at Restaurant Michael is consummately professional: always present when needed, informed and accommodating. Excellent service is, to my mind, a real stress reliever. No signaling for a waiter, no asking for more bread or searching for a utensil. They anticipate your needs and they are there.

So this is what contentment feels like. Unhurried. Civilized. Delicious.

Restaurant Michael
Winnetka

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