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One bite — The escargot Bourgogne at Henri

The Escargot Bourgogne Henri Chicago Ill. Wednesday April 17 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

The Escargot Bourgogne at Henri in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 30, 2013 3:17PM

Chris Gawronski, executive chef of Henri, (18 S. Michigan, 312-578-0763, puts his own twist on his Escargot Bourgogne dinner appetizer, indicative of the restaurant’s contemporary approach to fine dining.

“We want to re-educate people about how we do fine French haute cuisine in a modern setting without being pretentious,” Gawronski says. Customers want familiar flavors but not the same old dishes they’ve come to expect in the city’s more casual French bistros, he adds.

Instead of the traditional French escargot presentation, Gawronski features a dinner dish of six snails with black truffle brioche and dollops of garlic Hollandaise. He bakes truffle shavings into the buttery brioche bread and makes a traditional Hollandaise sauce with egg yolk, butter and Champagne vinegar. Pureed garlic is his own twist.

Henri imports the snails from Burgundy, France, except when they are available from California. The restaurant continues to serve this traditional escargot preparation at lunch. It is priced at $16.

“I try to learn from the old dishes,” says Gawronski. The son of a master chef, he previously worked for high-profile chefs in Los Angeles and Michigan.

The three-year-old Henri pays homage to famed Chicago architect Louis Henri Sullivan, who designed the ornamental façade of the building that houses the restaurant.

— Carolyn Walkup

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