RIVER NORTH — Eggs Benedict, that often mediocre standby on hotel menus everywhere, just got a major upgrade.
At Travelle, the newest entrant into Chicago's luxury hotel restaurant scene, there are six Benedicts on the morning menu. Housemade merguez sausage tops a Moroccan version, chef Tim Graham's favorite. Short rib and arugula blankets another. The most indulgent, at $29, combines lobster and truffled hollandaise.
This is how they roll at Travelle, which opened Friday on the second floor of the luxe new Langham Hotel, 330 N. Wabash Ave.
The hotel takes up the first 13 floors of the Mies van der Rohe-designed former IBM building — located directly across the street from the shiny Trump Hotel and its Michelin-starred restaurant, Sixteen.
Graham and his Travelle cohorts, general manager Serge Krieger and wine director Richard Hanauer, have collectively worked at some of the swankiest restaurants, including Tru and L20 (also Michelin star recipients). Pastry chef Scott Green, formerly of the French Pastry School, won the silver medal at the 2012 World Pastry Championship.
If it sounds like a recipe for a fine-dining showdown on Wabash Avenue, Graham insists otherwise.
"I don't even want to be in the same sentence as [Sixteen] because I don't want to be fine dining," said Graham, who spent 10 years at Tru before opening Paris Club in River North.
Graham prefers the phrase "casual elegance" when describing Travelle's seafood-heavy menu that travels the Mediterranean in flavor.
Dishes such as white gazpacho and flaming chicken saganaki share space with bucatini with clams, za'atar roasted carrots and a reimagined fish and chips (fried cod, chickpea fries and chorizo jus).
Big spenders will still feel at home. There is a caviar section on the menu, and something called the Seafood Elevation. Graham's take on a seafood platter comes in a custom-made serving piece with removable bowls; servers fill the bowls in stages with seafood that isn't so predictable — whelk, for example.
The course is meant to be shared and costs $110, though Graham said that will likely go up to $125.
"It's definitely going to be one of our signatures," he said.
Graham admits to skimping on one thing at Travelle.
"What is shocking is how little butter I'm using compared to Tru and Paris Club," he said. "Only three dishes on the menu are heavy with butter. It's weird. But we're always running out of olive oil."