Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting The Chocolate Sanctuary in Gurnee for a fantastic meal. I turned over all my dining choices to Ahmed and was very pleased (and full beyond measure) by the final results. This location is so sleek - there's a sweeping circular bar behind a chic mosaic of their custom logo. And it's weird to include in a food post, but I've never seen a cleaner and more sophisticated bathroom. The toilets are touchless, and the faucets have a dual sprayer/dryer function. Plus, there's a double-sided fireplace in the middle of the dining room. Tres chic.
We started our evening with drinks, naturally, before the chef served wine pairings with our various courses. We also had a set of fluffy chocolate rolls with chocolate butter. You can't have just one, but I tried to restrain myself knowing a full menu of items was en route. I enjoyed one (for now) with the chocolate raspberry mojito.
Our appetizers were wonderful, from the chef's take on a ceviche (it has jumbo crab meat, shrimp and calamari) to the popcorn shrimp and prosciutto mozzarella, the bites were interesting combinations of flavors and textures that showcased the chef's talents.
|Sesame aioli, toasted sesame seeds, |
cilantro and fresh lemon
|Prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, |
basil, balsamic glaze
One of my favorite dishes was the deconstructed Caesar salad, which featured grilled romaine and a soft-boiled egg. There is something supremely satisfying about oozing yolk over and entree. The anchovy also was a delicious touch of salt.
Our first main course (we shared! and they were tastings!) was the chicken marscapone with savory coca fettuccine. I would argue that the average person doesn't appreciate the versatility of chocolate until this hits your lips - it's smoky, nuanced and sophisticated flavor belongs square in the entree course and shouldn't just be relegated to the end of a meal.
|Mascarpone cheese, cocoa orange sauce, grilled chicken, crispy leeks, Heirloom cherry tomatoes over fettuccine pasta|
In fact, coca was a great complement to two other entrees that were far from sweet. The cocoa nib encrusted salmon was perfectly atop brussel sprouts and grilled polenta, while the sesame crusted ahi tuna was just the right amount of spice.
By this time, I was really full. But I can't go to a restaurant with chocolate in the name and forego dessert. It's basically a sin. So I soldiered on, trying the cuantro of chocolate assortment. It includes a white chocolate creme brulee, milk chocolate tiramisu, dark chocolate brownie with pumpkin gelato and caramel drizzle, and a chocolate covered strawberry. My favorite was the brownie - I'm a sucker for caramel and chocolate together. I love that it's an assortment of greatest hits. I tend to have order envy, so this completely eliminated it.
However, the stand out of the night was the chocolate smores dessert. It's Peruvian dark chocolate flourless cake with toasted Italian meringue, cocoa graham cracker sable, graham crumble, Sanctuary caramel, and cocoa candied bacon. Salty and sweet was exactly how this meal should end.
And I suppose if none of those tickled your fancy, or you find yourself too full for the best part of every meal, you can take dessert home with you. A beautiful dessert case holds delights from a local chocolatier alongside housemade favorites.
A special thanks to Blast Marketing for the invitation, The Chocolate Sanctuary for the hospitality and my ace photographer for the amazing photos.