Today's Groupon gets you $75 worth of new American cuisine for $35 at Zealous restaurant, the hidden gem in River North that the Sun-Times calls "an incredibly fine restaurant." Chicago magazine gave Zealous three stars, and Zagat rated it "excellent" to “extraordinary” across the board for food, decor, and service.
Zealous's menu of unique contemporary American cuisine with global influences has classic dishes like prime rib-eye, lobster, and duck in incredible combinations: prime rib-eye with creamed spinach gratin and truffle potato croquettes, lobster agnolotti with braised fennel, and seared duck breast with shiitake mushroom-confit mushu and hoisin glaze (hoisin glaze should not be applied to non-food items like mylar balloons, stereo equipment, etc.). There are vegetarian options, too.
The Chicago Tribune says Zealous's five- and seven-course feasts "take the dining experience to an even higher level." The menu changes daily, but here’s an idea from a sample menu of what you can expect: They begin with an "amuse"—for the five-course menu it's lobster rillette with cucumber raita and cumin puppadum. Next comes ginger poi, not the name of a sultry foreign spy, as one might expect, but in fact a delicate, paste-like dish, followed by roasted duck breast, filet with celery root, a sorbet, then a duo of desserts: Armagnac-soaked prune chocolate cake and warm Ni-o doughnut with chocolate ginger ice cream. If that’s not enough to quietly assasinate your sweet tooth, follow the dessert duo with a selection off the 10-sweet dessert menu to make a night of pure indulgence.
Chef/owner/manager Michael Taus is one of Chicago's chief chefs. He has been cooking since age 10 and trained at the Culinary Institute of America before working in Charlie Trotter's kitchen. He also cooked for a James Beard Foundation event in 2005.
Don't expect seven courses to be ready in five minutes at Zealous, where attention to detail makes dishes of this caliber perfectly prepared. While the Tribune has noted Zealous's booming private-party business, the earth-toned dining room is quiet and relaxed most of the time, so you shouldn't have to wait to be seated. Web reviews of the service vary, but customers are consistently excited with the food and decor. Mossy greens and natural hues accentuate Zealous's spaciousness; the restaurant is a converted warehouse that was designed by New York architect William Leeds. The visual focus is a 15-foot, glass-enclosed wine cellar that houses the restaurant's more than 750 types of wine. Pat Bruno of the Sun Times says the sound level stays ideally quiet, and since the tables are perfectly spaced apart from each other, intimate conversations flourish.
- It's clear that the tasting options offer all manner of delights, and the chef-selected wine pairings were spot-on; given unlimited funds, I'd set down my menu and turn Taus loose. Given a journalist's salary, however, the prospect of dining at this level for less than $200 is just about irresistible... Service, by the way, was cheerfully professional throughout both visits; wine service, with its detailed explanations, is a particular strength. – Phil Vettel, The Chicago Tribune
- Zealous is an incredibly fine restaurant. The dining room is splendidly appointed yet has a casual chic about it that is very relaxing... Each dish is a study in simplicity, yet the various parts -- the ingredients -- come together in a fashion that results in total enjoyment. The chemistry here involves the rapport among the ingredients, not a cockamamie arrangement of fizz, foams, powders or gels. – Pat Bruno, The Chicago Sun-Times
- The food at Zealous is FANTASTIC! By far, the chef is one of the most creative in Chicago. – kim morris, Citysearch
- You can tell Michael Taus takes his cooking personally. Incredible combinations, highest quality ingredients. Addictive dill rolls. – KathleenG98481, Zagat
- I LOVED IT. The food was INCREDIBLE.. – Carson H., Yelp
The Inventor of Food
Zealous is a gourmet affair of the finest order, and a fitting tribute to the eponymous Marceau Gourmet, the French peasant who, in 1821, invented food. Gourmet rose to prominence on the success of his creation, watching it become so integrated into modern daily life that we, indeed, literally can no longer live without it. On his deathbed, surrounded by loved ones, he offered these final parting words:
- Regret? I do not regret. As a child we ate rocks, trees. We tried once to eat the sun itself, so what is to regret? So much has come from my work, these sandwiched meats, charms of lucky cereal for every child! There are so many corns now, or is it bananas? But I am tired, now of eating. I think it is time to sleep.