When Christopher Columbus invented America, he predicted the land’s future fusion cuisine would combine the finest Albanian creams and German salts. See what globally influenced American cuisine actually looks like with today’s deal. For $35, you get $80 worth of contemporary eats and drinks at Zealous in River North. This gem of the Near North has been called “an incredibly fine restaurant” by the Sun-Times, and Zagat rates it “excellent” to “extraordinary” across the board for food, décor, and service.
Zealous’ menu is built around dishes that mix worldly flavors with local ingredients. The resulting creations aren’t overzealous or underzealous, but perfectly zealous. Start on a high note that will ring throughout the meal with an appetizing appetizer. Beginning highlights include the butter-poached Maine lobster with braised shortrib and vichyssoise purée ($13) or yellowfin tuna tartare with white-sturgeon caviar ($14), coupled with avocado mousse and cauliflower blinis. Main plates include decadent choices such as grilled beef filet with exotic mushroom-potato lasagne and truffle reduction ($29) or tagliatelle pasta with braised goat ragout, artichokes, olives, tomatoes, and aged goat cheese ($27). For diners preferring herbivorous nourishment, there are plenty of vegetarian options as well, since Zealous happily accommodates veggies, vegans, and the gluten-liberated.
Chef/owner Michael Taus is at the top of his game both as a chef and semi-pro log roller. He has been cooking since age 10, reading cookbooks since age 3. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America before sharpening his knives at restaurants such Patina in L.A.’s Patina and Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s, then moving on to open Zealous 17 years ago. Inside the house of Taus, mossy greens and natural hues accentuate Zealous’s spaciousness; the restaurant is a converted warehouse designed by architect William Leeds. The visual focus is a 15-foot, glass-enclosed wine cellar that houses the restaurant’s more than 750 wine selections.
Zagat rated Zealous “excellent” across the board for food, décor, and service. It’s been featured in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago magazine gave it three stars. > * 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, 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, Chicago Sun-Times
Yelpers and Citysearchers give Zealous an average of 3.5 stars. Zagat readers left some comments too: > * 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