Inside Valor, one gets the feeling of an intimate, rustic French bistro decked out with classy, contemporary minimalism. Old steel tavern chandeliers hang above the dining room. A long communal table lined with tall stools runs along the east side of the room, the length of their sleek bar, which has been redesigned for the space. The rough hewn stone fireplace is packed with empty wine bottles of all sizes serving as candle holders, dried wax cascading down each bottle; every candle is lit providing a cozy, glowing focal point in the corner of the room.
Chef Benoît Fliou came to Valor with a mission. He wanted to bring his careful attention to delicacy and detail to a seasonal and constantly changing menu. There are, of course, the staples, some of which we’ll talk about very soon, but he wants to stretch his culinary legs in a variety of styles from Parisian to Japanese to American comfort. No matter what inspired it, every dish that came to the table was elegant, inventive, and delicious.
The Ahi Tuna Crudo is one of their most popular starters. The fish is incredibly tender and fresh, lined up in thin, bite-sized slices along the middle of the plate. Pops of color and accent flavors arrive via Persian cucumber, Japanese pickles, tiny beet sprouts, and a smear of tofu and miso. At the perimeter you’ll find the sushi all-stars, ginger and wasabi. The wasabi especially is the most potent we’ve ever had and we couldn’t get enough.
In the same vein, there was a Salmon Tartar special on the evening of our visit. Chilled and chopped raw Norwegian salmon with a gentle citrus mayo. Peeled segments of lemon flesh bring bright moments of pucker. Chives bring savor and a really nice color balance against the pale salmon. There’s a gentle thread of heat from espelette chili peppers. On its own, the tartar had a refreshing summer salad feel, but spread across crisp, garlic-accented croutons, it reached a whole other level.
The Red Beet Salad is very different from the beet salad craze that swept the restaurant scene a couple years ago. The Valor version puts the natural sweetness of beets front and center, split in half and drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette. A sprig of lettuce adds some bitterness, and puffed ancient grain adds a little heft. The result is light, fresh, and organic.
Moving into the entrees, we were immediately enchanted by the Mediterranean Sea Bass. It arrives riding a smear of white bean puree and is topped with tiny slices of piquillo peppers and sherry vinaigrette. Each of the elements pushes the delicate and savory fish toward a different flavor, creamy or tart, before the heat of the peppers rises in the aftertaste. The preparation of the bass emphasizes its fresh flakiness and it delivers meaty satisfaction in every bite.
The Green Curry Lobster was hands down the most beautiful plate that came to our table. At the bottom of the bowl, a bed of spring vegetables and small pieces of fresh lobster meat are covered with a tangle of Thai noodles before a coconut and green curry bisque is poured over the top. Half of a lobster tail is placed on top of the noodles and coated in lobster bisque. Perched delicately over the lobster tail is a dark crimson, paper thin, gelatin disc that tastes like soy sauce with a hint more sweetness. The flavors combine perfectly, lobster decadence and a Thai spiciness, and the plating turns heads on its way to the table.
It’s hard to escape the beautiful simplicity of the Beef Tenderloin. This is slow cooked meat so tender that it falls apart for the fork. It’s covered in rich Bordelaise sauce, thick with the red wine, butter, and demi-glace. The potatoes are pomme dauphine, mashed potato sculpted into spheres, covered with delicate pastry, and deep fried. They’re the perfect textural accompaniment to the tenderness of the beef. This was a highlight of the night.
At Valor, there’s no separation between cooking and baking, Chef Benoît does both. For dessert we sampled the Choux à la Crème. A cookie with Mascarpone Chantilly and vanilla cream with lots of lime zest peppered in. Amidst the delicacy of the cream is the delectable crunch of caramelized cashew nuts to round out the textures and flavors.
No matter the course, Valor goes all in. They make every dish personal and display how attention to detail and a determination to be unique can create an unforgettable night out.
Valor is located at 667 Vernon Avenue in Glencoe, 847-786-4324, valorglencoe.com.