One of the lasting tenets of fine dining is “you pay for the view.” Which is to say, at high-rise restaurants, what shows up at the table is never as exciting, or as valuable, as what you can see out the window.
For 30 years, Everest (440 S. LaSalle St., 312-663-8920) has been a glorious exception to that rule. The 40th-floor dining room indeed offers sweeping views of the city’s west side and a peek at the western suburbs in the distance, but the view is definitely secondary to the beautiful plates by chef Jean Joho, the only chef/partner in the restaurant’s long history.
“Trends come and go, but class always stays,” Joho said. “People come here, party of two, four, six, eight, they want to have a conversation. (Everest) is a wonderful thing to have, a really special restaurant to visit on a special night.”
Joho is turning Everest’s 30th anniverary into a month-long celebration. Beginning Wednesday, the regular menu will be supplemented by a six-course menu of 1986 dishes, including such Joho signatures as his black-and-white risotto and, the single bite that once began every meal at Everest, Joho’s cauliflower fondant, piped onto an iced-tea spoon and topped with caviar.
The six-course degustation menu is $145, with an optional wine pairing at $98. Not exactly 1986 prices (back then, the degu was around $80) but still a good deal (the regular degustation menu is $165).
An additional event, a $500-per dinner featuring Clos Saint Hune wines, was fully booked before it could be announced publicly.
Joho also has a couple of alumni events planned. On consecutive Tuesdays (Jan. 17 and 24), Joho will be joined by such Everest alumnae as John Hogan, Michael McDonald, Paul Virant, Daniel Kelch and Thomas Lents to create multi-course dinners ($160, including wine).
These will not, however, be Everest-retrospective dinners, Joho said.
“The chefs will cook what they like to do, not Everest food,” he said. “For anniversaries, people always invite (famous) guest chefs. Instead, I’m bringing back my students, who are now out on their own; I like for them to make the evening. They’re so appreciative, so happy to come back to cook here once more; I think that’s something different.”
A 30th anniversary brings up the inescapable question of how long Joho, and Everest, might go on.
“I hope 30 more years,” Joho said, joking only a little. “The way I see it, I have many more celebrations coming up. Mentally and physically I feel fine. My mind keeps me young; I think surrounding myself with a younger generation of chefs keeps me young. You have to update yourself on a daily basis, but this is a part of life.”
Phil Vettel is a Tribune critic