Gold Coast hotel offers 4 dining options

August 13, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The Peninsula brand is all about service and luxury. And yet, it doesn't have to be unattainable. The Gold Coast hotel boasts four individual restaurants, each with its own character.

"We do actually have a separate kitchen for each restaurant that we have and our philosophy is to make sure we keep integrity of each restaurant and give it its own identity," said Jisoo Chon, the Assistant Food & Beverage Director for the hotel.

On the ground floor, Pierrot Gourmet.This casual, all-day cafe boasts an impressive selection of Alsatian-inspired tarte flambees, as well as hearty shrimp and mango salads, even rotisserie chickens with mashed potatoes and carrot slaw. Wines are, of course plentiful as is a pastry case with lots of French touches.

Upstairs, on the fourth floor, Shanghai Terrace beckons - with its upscale approach to modern Chinese cuisine. At first glance, you're drawn to the over-sized terrace, with impressive city views, overlooking Michigan Avenue. But look closer on the menu: spicy kung pao chicken, veggie-fortified "happy" rice, and a modest selection of dim sum, including vegetable and shrimp, carefully wrapped in rice flour dumplings.

On the main floor, The Lobby is a popular spot for afternoon tea, and the room is bathed in natural light, thanks to the enormous windows. But it also has a menu spanning the globe: from a sturdy ribeye dressed in a wine reduction.. to a delicate filet of halibut with baby fennel and pickled shallots. Scallops get a bit of carrot foam, for extra panache.

The hotel's most ambitious restaurant is Avenues, just off the lobby. Here, the menus are designed for looks as much as taste. Creature comforts abound and no expense is spared, but they don't want it to be a stuffy experience.

"It's a thoughtful, progressive cuisine; we like to think of it as personality cuisine, so it's stuff that I enjoy eating," said Avenues Chef Curtis Duffy.

Pristine king crab, in a Jackson Pollack-like composition with cucumber consommé, trout roe, licorice mint and floral cream; even soup is a minor masterpiece: I counted 15 ingredients in Duffy's pea soup - compressed pineapple, peas, pumpernickel, mint sauce, cashews, and coconut milk powder among them, all tucked beneath a frozen dome of ginger juice and coconut milk thanks to liquid nitrogen. Same goes for the mint sauce, frozen into "noodles" that are carefully garnished over the top.

"We use some molecular techniques, but it's not in the forefront of what we do. The ingredients are of utmost importance to us," said Duffy.

Reservations are recommended at Avenues but you can drop into the other restaurants anytime without one.

The Peninsula Hotel
108 E. Superior St.

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