Let us enumerate the Chicago restaurants where the chef in the kitchen earned four stars from Chicago magazine at his or her previous gig: Grace (Curtis Duffy from Avenues). Graham Elliot (also from Avenues). Goosefoot (Chris Nugent from Les Nomades). Alinea (Grant Achatz from Trio). And as of mid-July, Travelle (Langham Chicago, 330 N. Wabash Ave., no phone yet).
Travelle’s chef, Tim Graham, ran the kitchen at Tru from 2007 to 2009, after which he shifted within Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to close Brasserie Jo and open Paris Club. His first culinary job in Chicago outside of Lettuce, Travelle will serve Mediterranean food priced more moderately than the Trus of the world.
“We’d like to be an anniversary destination, but will also be appealing enough to visit two or three times a month,” Graham says. “The two words I have had as a lodestone are ‘casual elegance.’ Without the rigidity of a place like Tru, which feels like a place you would come only on your ten-year anniversary.”
Drawing from the 23 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea—hence the name, which is essentially the word “travel” with the accent shifted—Graham’s food will play with classics, in dishes such as pita balloons and flaming chicken saganaki. He also mentions the French Riviera, Spain, Morocco, and Turkey. “I’m fascinated by Turkish pepper paste,” he says.
Not a tasting menu (except at an eight-seat kitchen table), the menu will offer entrées priced from about $24 to $28, plus a $49 outlier for a big steak. Graham will source locally when it makes sense to. “Here in Chicago I’m not using zucchini blossoms from Provence,” he says, but “I will buy the best that I can. When the best is produced locally, that’s what I’ll buy.”
Graham also tips his hand to reveal that he’ll make various Benedicts at brunch and have plenty of fish on the dinner menu. “The crudo section is shaping up to be pretty hot,” he says, which is actually not a bad haute-cuisine joke.
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