Travelle, located in the newly opened Langham Hotel (formerly the IBM Building), in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, just north of the Chicago River, is a high-end Mediterranean-inspired masterpiece. The spacious, open, and bright dining room is located just off the hotel’s exquisite lobby, and is the perfect setting for a business lunch. Noise is at a minimum and service is not obstructive, so conversations can easily be had. The open kitchen sits in the north end of the dining room, encased in floor-to-ceiling glass.
Chef Tim Graham, formerly of the Michelin-starred Tru, as well as Brasserie Jo and Paris Club, has crafted a contemporary menu that pays homage to various parts of the Mediterranean, including Greece, Italy, France, and Turkey. The dishes are presented beautifully and taste extraordinary. Because Travelle is a hotel restaurant, it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekdays, and brunch and dinner on weekends. We visited during lunch, but I look forward to returning during other mealtimes, as well.
For those short on time, The Wabash Express menu allows each diner to choose an appetizer, entrée, and dessert from a limited menu. We, however, wanted to explore the menu and ordered a variety of items to share.
To begin, the grilled octopus, served with charred eggplant caponata, was delicious. Perfectly cooked octopus gloriously sat atop a mound of caponata, cannellini beans, and other vegetables. It was one of our favorite dishes that afternoon. A close second was the leek and potato flatbread, featuring truffled cheese and pickled mustard seed. I could have easily finished the entire flatbread myself, but nicely chose to share with the others.
Also great were the falafel, served atop a masala curry sauce and cucumber salad. The light and refreshing beet salad is also worth a look, featuring a hint of cumin spice, with plenty of goat cheese, tangerine, and a smattering of red quinoa and pistachios. While this dish is great for sharing, those with lighter appetites could enjoy this as an entrée.
The chicken avgolemono, a traditional Greek chicken, rice, and lemon soup, also made a great starter on a cold Chicago afternoon. The only dish that I could have done without was the Santa Barbara spot prawn, served with chili and mint. While good, the flavors did not stand up to the rest of the meal. Next time, I plan to instead try the shrimp cocktail with smoked tomato and curry oil.
While the food at Travelle was at the top of its game, the service was not. I had to ask the host to take my coat, whereas at a hotel such as the Langham and at the type of restaurant that Travelle aims to be, that should have been done without hesitation. Additionally, our party sat for a good ten to fifteen minutes until our server finally stopped to greet us. He passed us many times looking at us talking, but did not attempt to interrupt to welcome us or take a drink order. Finally, I had to speak up to him and say hello and ask how he was. Even then, he only asked if we needed more time. No offer to take drink orders, to explain the menu, or to answer any questions. We also had to tell him to course our order, rather than bringing all six dishes out at once. However, once we placed our order, everything was exceptional.
Overall, I was not only pleased with the food at Travelle, but the ambiance, as well. It is comfortable and welcoming, and I look forward to returning very soon. Hopefully by then, the service will be just as seamless as the cuisine.
330 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611