Melitzanosalata, though it may sound like a rare form of civilization threatening virus, is actually one of the best Greek eggplant spreads I have ever eaten. Most eggplant spreads I've had tend to be slimy—choking them down triggers the gag reflex due to the fact that I imagine this is what the leftover guts of a Gremlin melted in the sun might taste like.
The Melitzanosalata at Taxim, Chicago’s new gourmet Greek spot (by gourmet I mean they don’t serve 1,000 covers a night nor get most of their ingredients delivered via multiple Sysco Tractor Trailers), a charcoal-grilled eggplant purée larded with tahini and studded with crunchy and creamy toasted pine nuts, is more like the kind of velvety purée you’d find at The French Laundry.
It’s so smooth and clean and luxuriantly coating on your tongue, you imagine it must have been run through a sieve five hundred times by a team of trembling sous chefs. Then there's the matter of a sultry smoky essence from the grill, sort of the taste equivalent of a Catherine Zeta-Jones Chicago-esque burlesque of sorts that runs through the spread, making it unforgettable.
There are a lot more complex, well-executed dishes at Taxim, but the balance, skill, and simplicity of this dish is maybe the best example that chef David Schneider is about to become one of Chicago’s culinary stars.
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