The Playful Autumn Tasting Menu At Be.Steak.A
Chef Patrick Capurro wants to take you on a journey, one that recalls the cozy flavors and brisk weather of autumn in Chicago as when he lived there.
That’s what I found when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant to try it on a bustling Tuesday night.
Be.Steak.A, owned by Chef Jeffrey Stout, offers both a la carte dining and a seasonal tasting menu that’s $185 per person with an optional $130 wine pairing (six different pours). You can book the tasting menu when you make a reservation online or opt to order it when you get there, though, you risk the chance of it selling out for the night.
Walk through the restaurant doors and you’re greeted immediately with a beverage.
On that night, it was warm chicken brodo served in a ceramic cup. It’s so soothing and intensely chicken tasting that you wish they’d bottle it and sell it because this is exactly what you want on a cold night or anytime you’re under the weather.
The tasting menu sets the mood from the get-go with a series of artfully arranged snacks called “The Snack Yard.” The theme recalls Capurro’s many times raking leaves in Chicago. And sure enough, the snacks are set on papery onion skins, the color of brown, gold, and red, that mimic autumn leaves that have fallen.
On a tiny shovel sat a heap of dehydrated root vegetable chips atop a charred parsnip puree. Next to it was a crisp pastry fashioned into a cut log that held buttery tasting Wagyu tartar with Asian pear. A slice of burgundy truffle capped it. There was also a crisp, hot porcini arancini with holiday cranberry gel; and even a mini sweet potato pie with a torched meringue top sprinkled with crunchy hazelnut praline. It was savory bite after savory bite, with a slightly sweet one thrown in for contrast, that made you feel as if you were sitting in front of a fireplace with the wind howling outside no matter if you were really in the temperate South Bay.
That was followed by “Lost in the Corn Maze,” a corn and clam chowder with the smokiness of pancetta, a hit of heat from fresno chili, and the smoky-earthy notes from corn fungus (huitlacoche). For those who are allergic to clams — ahem, yes that would be me — there was a mini French onion soup instead that was smothered in gooey cheese.
Crusty pumpkin seed rolls were delivered with a plate of butter that looked like a sculpture. The entire plate was adorned with shaved ribbons of butter like giant pencil shavings that got sprinkled with gingerbread spice. How fun is that?
“Caramelle” pasta shaped and twisted like candies the striking color of hot cocoa held a filling of chestnut and taleggio. Brown butter espuma, rosemary, syrupy balsamic, and crunchy cacao nibs completed this rich dish with its supple toothsome texture and fruity, autumnal flavors.
Duck saltimboca married the Italian with a little of the Japanese. A ramen-like broth was poured at the table over the slice of rolled duck and soba noodles arranged with dollops of black garlic and cranberry gochujang, and topped with fried kale leaves. Sip the broth to reveal pepperiness, smokiness, and the deep, rich taste of dark meat duck.
The “Stone Axe” spotlighted domestic Wagyu. But if you’re feeling flush, you can spring for the Sanuki Wagyu beef instead for an extra $100. A limited Japanese breed, it has the highest marbling score and the lowest melting fat of any Wagyu. The cows are fed olive oil pressings, resulting in meat with high levels of oleic acid, a type of omega-9 fatty acid that can lower cholesterol and is found at its highest levels in olive oil. Yes, imagine that — extravagantly marbled beef that is somehow good for you, too.
We decided to get one of each to compare. The domestic Wagyu had a meatier feel and more of a developed crispy crust on its exterior. It was incredibly tender and juicy. By contrast, you barely have to chew the Sanuki, which just gushed with fatty juices that enveloped your entire mouth. Wagyu is so rich tasting that all you need is a couple of slices to be satiated. That’s even more evident with the Sanuki.
The beef was finished with port wine demi glace, and served with cute little kabocha custards. There was also a thin slab of lush gorgonzola brulee garnished with huckleberries, making for an almost built-in cheese course.
Desserts — yes, plural — are quite the production here. First up was a pear hazelnut ricotta layer cake with its whipped ricotta and cream filling much like a lighter cheesecake. Tiny pear balls were gilded with gold leaf and a candied pear slice was propped on the side looking like stained glass. Mind you, this was a full-sized dessert, too. I wisely decided to take most of mine home once our server told us this was just the start of what was to come.
Sure enough, he started setting the table with a parade of forks, spoons, and tongs before placing at the center what looked for all the world like a mini birch tree with holiday lights. This was “The Apple Orchard.” Glass globes hung from some of the branches, each containing a teeny scoop of refreshing green apple granita with tarragon; a chewy cinnamon apple pate de fruit; and what looked like a mini caramel apple on a stick but was in fact a marshmallow.
A wooden basket — just like the kind you’d go apple picking with or on a picnic — was set down, too, to place your glass globes once they were emptied.
That was followed by an individual latticed pie, filled with the most perfectly diced apples, and garnished with what appeared to be minuscule autumn leaves but were actually dehydrated apple skins. Of course, it was a la mode with caramel gelato and a cloud of whipped buttermilk alongside.
Again, this would have constituted a full-sized dessert anywhere else. And there was still more to come, including lychee pate de fruit.
You’re sent off with a ribbon-tied box of apple spice muffins to enjoy for breakfast the next day, plus a signed copy of the menu. And of course, after any meal at Be.Steak.A, you’re invited to help yourself on the way out to the table laden with bowls of imported, individually-wrapped hard candies.
You definitely sense how much fun Capurro has in developing each tasting menu. You also see the amount of thought and creativity that went into it. His summer one included a dessert flambeed tableside. The fall one, of course, boasts that magical, lighted mignardises tree. One gets giddy just imagining what his winter tasting menu may hold.