Slideshow: Is Grace the Best Fine Dining Restaurant for Vegetarians in Chicago?

Parsnip – Dried Pineapple, Tarragon Ice, Fennel
Parsnip – Dried Pineapple, Tarragon Ice, Fennel

The parsnip base has a Jello-like texture, cleansing the palate. Pearls of tarragon ice resemble frozen peas, and a little dehydrated pineapple and parsnip chips add a touch of crunchy sweetness.

Sweet Pea - Lime, Radish, Blooms
Sweet Pea - Lime, Radish, Blooms

The next course features peas surrounding two stripes of pea mousse with coconut. The radishes, phyllo dough, and blooms are arranged so intricately that it looks like a miniature fantasy world. This course is sweet and refreshing, a natural progression from parsnip, while the black pepper ash and crisp phyllo offer a savory counterpoint.

Beet – Black Garlic, Apple, Tarragon
Beet – Black Garlic, Apple, Tarragon

A black garlic Granny Smith apple chip perches at the edge of this beet dish, one of the more whimsical in terms of presentation and taste. An abstract squiggle of frozen golden beet purée shatters into a landscape of black barley, beets, and poached apple. This course was the first to have a bread pairing, a sourdough generously studded with black olives.

White asparagus – Grilled Ramp, Glass Noodle, Opal Basil
White asparagus – Grilled Ramp, Glass Noodle, Opal Basil

In this new spring course, white asparagus soup is poured over sponge-like basil mint purée frozen in liquid nitrogen. Glass noodles pickled in rice wine vinegar and tangy ramp jam balance the savory soup with acidity, while fresh green asparagus tips and shaved asparagus add texture.

The herb-infused brioche paired with this course was my favorite of the bread pairings. All breads are served with regular butter and herb butter, and the chefs took that same herb butter to make this brioche, which is pastel green on the inside and literally melts in your mouth.

Maitake – Daikon, Coffee, Scallion
Maitake – Daikon, Coffee, Scallion

Crispy maitake mushroom is served in a portobello mushroom broth, along with cylinders of preserved daikon, scallions, and potato purée. This course looks just like wood on a forest floor, with earthy flavors to match.

This course was paired with a bagel bread with lava salt.

Kalamansi - Asian Pear, Black Lime, Garden Sorrel
Kalamansi - Asian Pear, Black Lime, Garden Sorrel

Pastry chef Bobby Schaffer does a fantastic job with his trio of dessert courses, progressing from lighter citrus flavors to richer chocolate. Here, garden sorrel sorbet sits atop a creamy kalamansi semifreddo, along with fresh Asian pear for the first dessert course. Asian pear meringue accents the soft textures with a sugary crunch.

Dark Chocolate – Raw Chestnut, Mandarin, Lemon Mint
Dark Chocolate – Raw Chestnut, Mandarin, Lemon Mint

This final dessert is one of contrasts. A dark chocolate crocant against a lighter, lacy tuille. Starchy raw chestnut powder against a smaller mound of sweeter toffee dust. A dehydrated orange chip against a fresh juicy sliver. And a little vanilla creme fraîche keeps the dish from being too dry.

White Chocolate - Raspberry Lychee Juice, Freeze-Dried Raspberry, Black Mint
White Chocolate - Raspberry Lychee Juice, Freeze-Dried Raspberry, Black Mint

I dislike white chocolate, since it's so sweet and flavorless. But this may be the best bite of white chocolate I've ever had, in part because there's actually not much white chocolate involved. The impossibly thin shell encases a raspberry lychee soup that bursts upon the slightest pressure from your tongue. Thankfully, my server warned me to eat this in one bite or I would have had juice dribbling down my dress. In this instance, white chocolate is the best to showcase the clean flavors of raspberry and lychee, which might have been lost within a more intense cocoa.

Passion Fruit Caramels
Passion Fruit Caramels

I would take a truffle over a caramel any day, since caramel tends to get stuck all over my teeth. The passion fruit caramel inside these does no such thing though, instead coating your tongue in a sweet and sour smoothness that lingers on your taste buds.