I couldn't wait to see what modifications Brard's former sous chefs, Ky-Wai Wong and Randy Reed, might have made to his refined, contemporary-Continental menu. There have been several. Ingredients are still impeccable and the preparations still elegant, but there has been a clear shift toward appealing to midwestern sensibilities. Gone are starters like caviar tastings and rabbit in aspic; in their place are more familiar-sounding dishes like shrimp cocktail, fried zucchini blossoms in a batter of Great Lakes' Dortmunder Gold, and a fabulously fresh "duet" of Alaskan king crab and avocado.
Along with the less exotic dishes have come some slightly lower prices. But Classics still isn't a cheap date. For instance, a stellar warm spinach salad, prepared tableside for two, checked in at $14 per person. And an unbelievably succulent portion of pan-roasted Mediterranean sea bass, in a savory green-olive crust, with haricots verts and tomato beurre blanc, set us back $32.
Still, in light of the expert preparations, the near-flawless service, and complimentary touches like canapés, amuse-bouches, mignardises, sparkling water, and valet parking, the prices represent a fair value. Don't wait for someone to give you a diamond. Just grab a presentable partner and go. (Classics is inside the InterContinental Hotel, 9801 Carnegie Avenue; 216-707-4157.)
Tremont Trek . . . Eat, drink, and snoop around other people's houses this Saturday, June 24, during the fifth annual Tremont Home Tour. The six scheduled dwellings are sure to be lovely, but the food -- prepared by some of Tremont's top restaurants -- sounds downright irresistible. Among the attractions: artichoke bottoms stuffed with goat cheese and bacon, with truffle hollandaise (Fahrenheit); seared scallops with Thai curry sauce (Parallax); scallop ceviche with pepper cress salad (Sage); and spiced ribs with roasted tomatillo sauce (Fat Cats and Lava Lounge). The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with pizza from Edison's Next Door Deli and ends around 10:30 p.m. with ice cream from Tremont Scoops and pastries from bakers Heather Haviland and Ron Saballos. Tickets are $95 per person and can be purchased by calling 216-575-0920 or 216-621-1125. -- Cicora