While I don’t advocate Jafar as a suitable role model, he did have one thing right when he said, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” This much can be said for the outside of Temporis, West Town’s chicest 20-seat dining room. Located on the corner of Ashland and Walton, the curtains are drawn, the lights are low and if you blink as you’re walking by you might miss this diamond in the rough. With a “pizza by the slice” eatery across the street, it’s not where you would expect to find a sophisticated, cutting-edge restaurant with a stellar tasting menu.
The modern but minimalistic interior sets the tone for the entire experience. The first nuance of whimsy is apparent upon sitting. In the center of each sleek wooden table is a tiny micro garden. While you won’t get to see it first hand, a hydroponic garden is hard at work in the basement, ensuring the greens are always fresh. Chefs Sam Plotnick and Evan Fullerton, formally of Les Nomades, work together to craft the seasonally changing tasting menu. Each dish is carefully focused around one ingredient and executed with extreme precision.
A single bite, this palatable intermezzo is meant to cleanse the palate. Trout roe and a creamy parsnip and dill pollen puree accompany a succulent piece of king crab. It’s a light and refreshing introduction to the contemporary menu.
Dusted in yuzu snow, the raw Japanese amberjack fish is served with ginger sugar cookie crumble, lemon balm, hazelnut and basil. It’s a unique, molecular twist on a French-Asian pairing that resembles a tiny volcano.
Seasonal update: This course has been changed to scallop with nettle, fennel and corriander.
Sunflower in Five Forms
The delicate presentation of the sunflower in five forms is breathtaking. Watercress puree is spread across the bottom of the plate and glazed sunchoke, endives, salsify (edible root) chips, chamomile and sunflower seeds are arranged in a stunning presentation. The subtle, earthy flavors made me appreciate the quiet complexities of the sunflower family.
Seasonal update: This course has been changed to white asparagus with a variety of alliums and black pepper.
Wild Mushroom Consomme
As comforting as it is beautiful, this port glazed mushroom soup is rich and elegant. Creating a flavorful French comsomme takes an immense amount of patience but the result is satisfyingly aromatic and mouthwatering. Even though it won’t, this soup could entertain diners across all seasons. The shaved black truffles on top are an extra bonus.
The fifth course is easy to finish in a single bite. Pear gelatin topped rabbit rillettes are served on a lightly salted gluten-free socca chip.
A trio of rabbit is presented in a roasting pan. The roasted rack, loin and leg are accompanied by carrot puree, cranberry bean ragu and celery, all of whose flavors are enhanced by the micro greens cut from the center of the table.
This surprising and inventive dish showcases venison two ways. The venison shank is braised in milk stout while the loin is roasted and sprinkled with a generous helping of granola. The sweet pomegranate and robust coffee stout drizzled on the plate bring cohesiveness.
Seasonal update: This course has been changed to lamb with turnip, Herbs de Provence and olive.
Presented in a smoke filled cloche, the cheese course is the highlight of the meal. Once the smoke clears, five small bites are revealed. Seven-year-old white cheddar sits between a perfectly plump grape and a candied walnut. Next to the walnut are tiny cubes of quince paste made from Vander Mill cider, and at the helm of the fromage circle is a baked cheese pastry. I wish I could have ordered this course five more times.
Ending a meal with foie gras ice cream is extremely gratifying, especially when it’s served with a black sesame wafer roof and paired with caramelized French pastry. The splash of passion fruit and accompanying poached cherries enhance its decadence.
933 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622