Nocturne, River North's newest jazz and supper club, launched the summer version of its Renditions dinner and music series last Thursday with a set from the Tom Gershwin Quintet and a matching tasting menu from chef Dustin Beckner, with accompanying beverages from sommelier Scott Mattson, who owns Nocturne with his wife, Nicole. Nicole Mattson says the latest Renditions menu will run for the next six to eight weeks before Beckner designs a new menu.
The current menu was constructed to match the music of Quiet Kenny, a 1959 album by trumpet player Kenny Dorham. According to Scott Mattson, Dorham was an under-appreciated musician due to his style, which was less flashy than that of some of his contemporaries. If you missed the kickoff of the dinner pairing, you can still order the tasting menu (for $49 per person without drinks) any night of the week (except Sunday, when Nocturne is closed) and catch the Tom Gershwin Quintet on Thursdays, when it will play its way through Quiet Kenny.
"His quiet but talented playing was a good match for my style in the kitchen," says Beckner. "I’m not a show-business kind of chef; I prefer to let my food speak for me.”
The five courses for this Rendition include a chilled plum soup with coconut mousse on a cardomom-almond biscotti; a blue crab salad with black truffle remoulade and house-cured tasso; monkfish schnitzel with Colorado mushrooms and parsley sauce; a smoked short rib with Dr. Pepper peanuts over a johnny cake; and cherry clafoutis with strawberry ice cream, tarragon and a lace cracker made from Black Shirt Brewing spent grain. Each dish is named for a song on Dorham's album and contains ingredients that riff on the song name and style. The blue crab dish, for example, takes its cue from the song "Blue Spring Shuffle," a bluesy tune with a New Orleans vibe, which Becker says inspired the crab and remoulade.
Check ahead for reservations and music bookings on the Nocturne website, as some nights are reserved for nationally touring acts, when the menu is limited and the nightly band will not appear.