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Atelier's End of Winter Menu for 2024


I'd stopped making blog posts for tasting menus because it's a lot of work, but I want to get back to that. Here's my first tasting menu of 2024: the end-of-winter fare at Atelier in Lincoln Square.

Atelier is my favorite resturant. We first went when it was still Elizabeth under its original chef for the Game of Thrones brunch, which was a menu inspired by a forgettable HBO fantasy series from the mid-10s.

But we really started to appreciate them during the Early Quarentine Era, where they were offering tasting menu deliveries. This is around the time they transitioned from Chef Regan to Chef Jones. After things started opening up in-person again, we began going every couple months, since their menu is constantly changing with whatever's in season or good that day.

Our first visit in 2024 was a bit of a shift: Chef Hunter, who had taken over in January 2023 as the resturant rebranded itself Atelier1, stepped out of his role to focus on expanding from a single resturant to an empire:

In order to allow Chef Hunter the ability to pursue new projects within the group, Bradyn Kawcak was promoted from Chef de Cuisine to Executive Chef in late January. Chef Kawcak brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, having honed his skills at esteemed establishments like Band of Bohemia, Entente, and Elizabeth. Chef Kawcak also played a vital role in the opening of Atelier as sous chef.

— Atelier newsletter, subject "Exciting News!", 2024-02-24

If my memory serves, Chef Kawcak has been in the kitchen since the Elizabeth days. He said 2023 would be the year of madeira and that was reflected in some of the drink pairings (and also my own cocktails2), so we got him an interesting bottle as a congratulations.

The Menu

Lots of veggies were on the menu, and they were all awesome. I don't know if this is new or if I just haven't noticed, but they've listed some of their vendors on the menu -- and Nicols Farm is on there. I know the produce is top-notch because I also get my own groceries from them during the summer/fall when the farmer's market is running!

We usually both get the wine pairing, but tonight we got one reserve wine and one non-alcoholic pairing. Their NA pairings are always pretty fun and interesting. And we do compare how well both pair -- wine generally wins, but sometimes the NA ends up being a clear winner.

The Larder is a course Chef Hunter added when he took over, and it's been a fixture on the menu since. I really like it; when they were doing the delivery menus, there was always an optional charcuterie board you could add to your bread course, and that was one of my favorite parts of the meal. The Larder isn't charcuterie, but it feels similar: you get lots of little bites of cool pickles & spreads. I hope this never goes away.

There's one dish not pictured in the gallery3: the gnocchi. These were served in a maple/miso sauce with a salad of pea greens. It came family-style, so we served ourselves. The gnocchis themselves were basically melting in your mouth -- I think these may have been made from the carrot? -- so instead of the usual toothsome bite after the fried exterior, you got a flavour bomb going off.

The rutabaga was really good. It was vaguely reminiscent of another rugabaga dish they did, which was one of our all-time top 5 dishes:

rutabaga pappardelle caesar

bagna cauda | miso

— Atelier newslatter, subject "Atelier Restaurant News", 2023-02-17

If you want to know what my favorite was: all of it.

The take-home was a little honeycomb toffee-type thing. I had it for lunch!

Stand-Out Pairings

The NA pairing for the porridge was a honeysuckle tea-type cocktail, and it was fucking amazing? The chardonnay was fine, but this is one of those cases where the NA is a clear winner. We commented on this to the beverage director and she told us that the honeysuckle is both so delicious and versatile that it's basically always slotted in to the NA pairing somewhere, no matter the menu.

The NA pairing for the gnocchi wasn't strictly better then the champagne, but it was really unusual: this gnista "spirit" with some of their own citron syrup added. I'm not sure how to describe the flavour. The gnocchi was kind of forest-y, and I'd say the champagne was like you're a fox in the forest snacking on some berries, but the gnista was like you're a squirrel foraging on the forst floor for berries. Which I realize is some pretentious Somm-tier bullshit way of describing the taste, but there you go...

Disclosure: this post is NOT sponsored, but I did get an extra course and some caviar. We're regulars, so we occasionally get to try some in-development dishes/pairings, and other bonuses.

  1. Chef Hunter crushed it, btw. Atelier had rebranded and thus technically ran without any Michelin stars for most of 2023, but they got their star as quickly as a new resturant can. 

  2. Madeira and tonic is a winner. We had this once at Atelier with Tim's custom tonic and we've been going through at least one bottle of tonic a month since... 

  3. Because I forgot to take a picture...sorry.