Read about our stay at Indian Lakes Resort
More Illinois Reviews
Shiraz on the Water
Daniel (Danny on the Money), Richard
(Northern Sky Designs) and I go back a long
ways... but it had been way too long indeed since the three of us had
actually gotten together -- especially for something that was not
work-related. Calls had been placed to both of them months ago
proposing a get-together, with no results. Alas, our schedules
seem to never allow any time for anything other than our jobs. But it
finally looked as though we had found a time and place when all three of us
would be in the area at the same time. I had asked Richard to choose a
restaurant not too far away where we could all -- even our wives -- meet for
dinner, drinks and laughter, three things we all really needed after the way
2008 had turned out! I had promised that I would leave a review out of
the mix... but after the evening we had, I just had to write about it.
So much for my promise, but I think they'll understand.
The selected venue --
Water (Once upon a time the Sedona Grille...), at
Indian Lakes Resort -- was a restaurant in which I had been
interested for quite some time, and I was excited about finally having an
occasion to go there. Shiraz sits up above two levels of ponds which,
in the warm season, must give the place quite a nice touch. Even on
this winter's night, the views were exceptional; the restaurant has lots of
glass, all the way around. I also noted that the restaurant had
received the 2008 Wine Spectator Award for its immense selection of quality
wines; there were over 700 bottles on the list and many were wines I have
seen and sampled in very nice restaurants. It was a nice feather in
Arriving at 6:30 -- a bit early for the
reservation -- I noted that the restaurant was fairly empty; even the bar
was not as populated as I would have thought. Was this a bad sign? I had a few minutes, so
I checked out Izzy and Moe's (the "speakeasy" on the lower level). It
offered dancing, live entertainment, karaoke and appetizers -- perhaps on
another night... The rest of the crew showed up by 6:45
and I quickly discovered that the lack of patrons was in no way related to
the quality of the evening we were about to have.
The dining room, broken into several
sections, created the feeling of a small and intimate, yet uncrowded space.
All tables were covered with table cloths of either white or subdued shades
of rust or olive; folded black cloth napkins were placed at each setting.
Appetizer plates with knives, water goblets and silverware graced the table,
and very comfortable chairs upholstered with a dark green faux suede made
dining even more comfortable. Windows covered the entire perimeter and
there wasn't a bad view in the room; even though it was cold and drab
outside, the feeling was warm inside. The ambience factor was high...
The menu provided plenty of imaginative
and interesting choices. We started the evening with cocktails (Grey
Goose for me, Maker's Mark for Danny and Dewar's for Richard, the girls
ordered 2005 Estancia Pinnacles Ranches Chardonnay) and some app's for the
table, including Shrimp Shiraz ($8): Jumbo poached shrimp,
avocado, tiger sauce, tamarind balsamic glaze, Duck Confit
Flauta ($7): Mesquite smoked, salsa
verde, flame-roasted corn garni, and
King Crab Roll ($12): California style, roll, king crabmeat
center, avocado, cucumber, wasabi, pickled ginger, spicy toasted sesame
sauce. All three were excellent; of special note was the real king
crab in the center of the California rolls -- as stated on the menu -- which
really made for a taste treat. Danny loosened things up a bit when he
unleashed one of his usual off-the-wall lines about Helicopter Ben
(Bernanke) and the evening was off to a great start as we all laughed almost
to the point of tears.
We took our time with appetizers,
ordered another round and kibitzed about our friendships and how we had all
fared in 2008. Dinner choices were eventually decided and were
necessarily varied, as we had promised to share flavors. I had seen on
the menu the proclamation that the steaks were Tallgrass beef (beef that is
grass-fed and from a
company started by Bill Kurtis). So on this rare occasion, I
decided that it was steak for me; I ordered the 8 oz. Prime Top
Sirloin Steak ($18) topped with a Bleu cheese crust and a side of
sautéed wild mushrooms, adding a Wedge Salad ($6) of iceberg lettuce topped
with cucumber, tomato, red onion and Maytag Bleu cheese dressing.
Danny followed suit with a 12 oz. New York Strip steak ($29), only he
decided to make it Oscar Style ($6) with a shitake crab cake, asparagus tips
and Béarnaise. Richard saw his favorite and ordered it: Rotisserie
Duck ($18) with Hoisin sauce, mushrooms and grain pilaf.
The girls, a little more on the frugal
and dainty side, ordered lighter entrees: Lauren selected the
Chicken Saltimbocca ($14) a new twist on an old favorite with
prosciutto, fontina cheese, sage and mushrooms, Jennifer the Cedar
Smoked Salmon Plank ($17) with duchesse of purple potato, sautéed
spinach and Béarnaise sauce, and Yvonne the Summer Rainbow Pappardelle
($21), consisting of shrimp, lemon beurre
blanc, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus and
Well if ever there were a happier crew
or one more content with an evening out to dinner, I'd like to see them.
The degree of silence is always one way of determining the quality of a meal
and I was acutely aware that there was a sudden and immense silence as the
dinners arrived and we all started to devour our feast. The sharing
proved that each not only liked what he or she had ordered, but liked what
others ordered also... The steaks were tender, juicy and cooked
exactly as ordered, the shrimp and salmon tender and not overcooked, veggies
were bright and al dente, plating was well done and eye appealing and the
plates themselves were very hot. When I asked for comments/complaints,
I only heard two: Lauren's chicken was a tad dry and therefore a bit on the
tough side (but otherwise tasty) and Richard didn't care much for the music:
U-2 was played through the entire meal. I know he doesn't like U-2 at
all... personally, I didn't even hear the music with all the talk and
laughter taking place.
The dessert menu was quite tempting with
items like a Tiramisu Martini (Kahlua mascarpone custard),
Eli's Cheesecake, Cappuccino Mini-cake and
Death By Chocolate (I was certain Lauren would go for that one!),
but everyone was too full. We did linger with a final glass of wine,
lamenting that we were unable to do this more often. Looking on the
more positive side, I was happy to be able to have the opportunity to share
such fine things with such good friends.
At an awkward moment in the parking lot,
when goodbyes were seemingly inadequate, Danny started up with Auld Lang
Syne... and we all joined in for one chorus, followed by a final hearty
round of laughter as we all parted company once again.
One final note about
Water. The combination of great food at very reasonable prices,
excellent service, accompanied by warm and relaxing ambience are the reason
that this venue earns a solid Four Zins.
Make a reservation and perhaps grab a coupon from
Restaurant.com for an even better
value. Just don't wait for the next New Year to go there!
Your Table is Waiting