Observant patrons dining at Winnetka’s Restaurant Michael all eventually end up asking, “What’s going on in that room?” The answer is George Trois. It’s an evening in an elegant, parlor-like atmosphere with a prix fixe menu of intricately designed delicacies masterminded by Chef Michael Lachowicz. The George Trois experience is offered only four nights per week, with the choice of a six-course or nine-course meal, and guests must adhere to a dress code. It’s exclusive, elegant, and unforgettable.
Upon arriving, we were led to our table in the George Trois dining room. While many restaurants try to create a feeling of intimacy, this is a truly intimate space—pristine, gallery white, and upscale, with only five tables available at our seating.
Each table received a maître d level of diligent attention and the arrival of each course feels like an unveiling, presented by Chef Michael himself.
The menu printed on handsome card stock arrives in a fogged envelope and lists the breadth of courses that will shortly parade to the table.
The first course was a Tiny Lyonnais & Burgundy Poached Quail Egg. At a bite or two, it’s a charming introduction to the attention paid to every infinitesimal detail of the presentation, flavor, and texture on each plate. In the center of the plate is a tiny nest made of finely shredded potato, sculpted into shape, fried, and cut to specification with surgical scissors.
The little salad inside is crispy frisée with a champagne vinaigrette and dijonnaise that’s finished when you cut into a quail egg gently poached in burgundy wine, releasing a creamy yolk.
It’s impossibly delicate and very delicious.
The next plate was a dual preparation of escargot. One is very traditional, cooked in butter, fresh parsley, Pernod, cognac, garlic, salt, and pepper. That sits on a light mousse made of escargot, preserved tomato spirals, and candied garlic cloves. Playing opposite the delicious buttery garlic tone is an intense Roquefort cheese mousse sandwiched between layers of croissant-like puffed pastry. Our sommelier, Frederic, paired every dish exceptionally, but, here in particular, he elevated the flavors on the plate adding a floral sweetness.
Course three was a duo as well, this time of warm and cold foie gras presentations. The warm is traditional foie gras on top of brioche stuffed with housemade orange marmalade. The final flavor has a comforting maple pancake quality. The cold is a pâté-like terrine, made of rabbit loin embedded in a foie gras mousse, wrapped in leeks, sitting on a bed of truffle mayonnaise.
The two presentations are surrounded by baby carrots as an homage to the rabbit. Fresh huckleberries pickled in vanilla syrup add a lovely bolt of sweetness to the rich flavors of the dish.
Course four moved us into entrée territory with Chilean Sea Bass Frite & Scottish Salmon Poêlé. The wild Scottish salmon is deep and savory, braised in whole butter with a pan crisped exterior and a scallop-like melt-in-the-mouth quality. It sits on a bed of creamed leeks with tarragon and a cordon of beurre rouge, a pinot noir butter sauce. The sea bass is dusted with fennel pollen, breaded in brioche breadcrumbs, and fried in clarified butter, then topped with a tang of saltiness via a crown of caviar.
Then we hit a slight intermission in the form of the Passion Fruit Intermezzo, a refreshing palate cleanser. It’s passion fruit sorbet soaking in lemongrass vodka with a delightfully stringent top note from minced pickled carrots sprinkled over the top.
The steak entrée offered us the one menu choice of the evening, you can opt to have the Wagyu entrecote steak prepared au poivre or with a foie gras sauce. We each chose a different preparation, and, upon their arrival, we each swore by our particular plate. Actually, to this day, we’re positive the other is missing something. Both steaks are tender center cuts of Wagyu beef rib eyes prepared to diner specification. The au poivre, or peppered, has a concentrated toasted black peppercorn crust, is sautéed in whole butter, and comes with a sauce of rich veal glace cut with cream, cognac, and Armagnac. The foie gras puree is finished with a sweetened port wine sauce, adding a similar mouth watering insistence without the peppercorn punch. Both preparations come with delicious green beans, micro turnips, and a couple different renditions of potato sides, the best of which is an au gratin frite breaded in Romano cheese and breadcrumbs, fried like a croquette.
A cheese trio—River’s Edge goat cheese, Hooligan Cow’s Milk cheese, and Roquefort, served with raisin bread toast points—acted as a bridge from the entrees into the work of Pastry Chef Stefan Markov. Much like the diminutive Lyonnais opener, a Petite Soufflé Grand Marnier arrived. At just a few bites, it was inconceivably light and fluffy, like delicate, citrus-tinged air with a Grand Marnier burn and a stiff whipped cap on top.
The dessert show stopper was the Symphonie de Fruits. It’s a gorgeously plated combination of passion fruit ganache; lychee mousse; almond frangipane; warm lemon madeleines; violet sugar; a rosemary, lime, and mango macaroon; and a twisting chocolate ribbon. The flavors pull from sweet to fruity to tangy to decadent, creating one satisfying moment after another.
At the end of the evening, each guest receives a silver gift bag with a housemade chocolate, like an artisan Ferrero Rocher, wrapped for later.
As if the Restaurant Michael experience wasn’t reason enough to visit, George Trois is special occasion dining at its finest. From the time you sit down until the time you leave, Chef Michael and his team make it a night to remember.
George Trois is located inside Restaurant Michael at 64 Green Bay Road in Winnetka, 847-441-3100, restaurantmichael.com