A recent Slashfood post ribbed on the economy with the throwaway question “Who’s eating caviar staircases these days?” and, we figured, well, we’ll find out.
Slashfood might think of the caviar staircase as an example of absurd gastronomic luxury, but we just think of it as Tru’s signature preparation. The Streeterville restaurant arguably ignited Chicago fine dining upon its open in 1999, and the caviar staircase — a $250 vertical spiral of glass squares, each bearing a precise dollop of caviar or accompaniment — has long been its headliner.
But it does seem like a supplement of this variety might be the first to go as diners start watching their wallets. We got in touch with Randy Brand, the managing partner at Tru, who told us that “even in a recession there is an appreciation of quality. We do have patrons that order the staircase and a number did so on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. They are also those who order it as part of a celebration or special dinner.”
He was quick to reassure that Tru is more than just the staircase, reiterating that the menu is constructed to meet any number of price points (from more casual a la carte ordering in the lounge to the full staircase-and-all prix fixe collection). “Our goal is to provide an outstanding dining experience,” Brand told us. “If someone selects the staircase, it is just a part of the evening.”
That said, the presentation itself appears to have seen better days: Where once diners would receive four varieties of fish eggs (as seen here in a 2005 photo), a call to the restaurant confirms that now the staircase has just three types — osetra, sevruga, and a flavored American version, like their signature wasabi tobiko.
All this — Brand’s roundabout answer, the staircase’s missing steps — points to the answer being “Not too many diners.” Special occasions are one thing, but we think the days of the “what the hell, it’s a Thursday” indulgence are, for the time being, behind us.