This Evanston space has seen its share of stars—from Grant Achatz in the days of Trio to Dale Levitski in the Trio Atelier era—and executive chef Andy Motto lives up to it, boasting an impressive pedigree of his own (Le Francais, Les Nomades, the French Laundry, and Tru, among others). Dishes like a starter of liquid cauliflower encased in squid-ink ravioli and topped with apple compote and a tiny squib of smoked salmon combine what might seem like ill-compatible elements in a way that's completely transporting and refreshingly gimmick-free. (Your implement for this? A spoon.) Motto's interest in southeast Asian flavors is showcased in offerings like crispy pork rolls in a serrano vinaigrette dotted with thinly sliced chiles and French breakfast radishes. A halibut fillet served over barley in a heavenly coconut-lemongrass broth and topped with crunchy shallots was mind-blowing—one of the best things I've ever eaten. Little touches—like the scallion-walnut rolls included in the bread service, or the finger-size chard-and-Parmesan-stuffed cannelloni served with a combo of sliced duck breast and duck thigh confit—make a big impact. The only thing we found less than transcendent was a dessert of deconstructed pumpkin mousse, little orbs surrounded by swoops of blood orange sauce and puddles of banana foam, all studded with odd matchsticks of curried brioche sticks: the mousse itself was so good I would have preferred a simple ramekin of it. That was ameliorated, however, by pairing it with a stellar dessert wine, Australia's Noble One. Complimentary thimble-size red velvet cupcakes finished the meal.
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