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updated: 12/18/2012 6:25 AM

Ingredients speak for themselves at Naperville's Artisan Table

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  • Artisan Table's house-made chips come topped with crumbled blue cheese and caramelized bacon.

       Artisan Table's house-made chips come topped with crumbled blue cheese and caramelized bacon.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Artisan Table's hoisin burger features braised short ribs, cucumber, grilled green onion and Sriracha mayo.

       Artisan Table's hoisin burger features braised short ribs, cucumber, grilled green onion and Sriracha mayo.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Spring greens get added flavor from fennel, celeriac, onion, broccoli and cherry tomatoes in Artisan Table's harvest salad.

       Spring greens get added flavor from fennel, celeriac, onion, broccoli and cherry tomatoes in Artisan Table's harvest salad.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Artisan Table in the Naperville Marriott boasts contemporary decor.

       Artisan Table in the Naperville Marriott boasts contemporary decor.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
By Jennifer Olvera
Daily Herald Correspondent

Hotel dining rooms tend to be formulaic. However, newly opened Artisan Table in the revamped Marriott Naperville, 1891 N. Naper Blvd., takes a decidedly different approach. Emphasizing farm-to-table fare, its rooftop houses some 60,000 bees, whose honey informs some dishes.

The restaurant is pleasant and modern with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. Flagstone-inspired wall accents are furthered by oversized, transport-themed artwork.

As for the menu, it's nothing too wacky, but it's far from dull.

We started with the house-made potato chips, perfectly crispy, thin-as-a-wisp spuds sprinkled with nubs of caramelized bacon and crumbled blue cheese. It came with a creamy dipping sauce, but that was wholly unnecessary: The dish had plenty of flavor on its own.

Don't miss out on ordering the artisan cheese board either. It arrives with a luxurious mix of American cheeses, chewy local honeycomb, Rare Bird seasonal preserves, candied pecans and bread. It's perfect for grazers and ideal for pairing with the small, affordable wine list, which holds many options by the glass.

We also tried the flavor-rich pozole rojo, which arrived with a radish, limes, avocados and tender micro cilantro garnishes. The chicken-studded broth had a beautiful burnished hue. While light on hominy, our real issue was the temperature: The soup arrived lukewarm. It's a shame to see a well-prepared dish suffer this fate.

The harvest salad is an enjoyable follow-up. Its tangle of spring greens shared space with shaved fennel, celeriac, onion, broccoli and cherry tomatoes in a lightly sweet herbaceous vinaigrette. It wasn't overwrought. Rather, it's the kind of dish where quality ingredients speak for themselves.

Mind you, a number of other salads could lead you in another direction, be it the Asian chopped, spinach with strawberries or signature Artisan with roasted beets, dried cherries and blue cheese.

From there, it was on to the hoisin burger, a traditional burger topped with braised short ribs, grilled green onions, Sriracha mayo and slices of cucumber. We found the sauce a tad sweet, but the sweet-spicy pickles on the plate were a total home run.

Other sandwiches include a crab BLT, grilled Portobello "burger" with balsamic onion relish and a lemon-oregano-marinated Mediterranean chicken sandwich with artichokes, fresh mozzarella and basil aioli.

Entrees offer something for pretty much everyone. There were no gripes from us when it came to the dry-rubbed rib-eye with creamed baby spinach, roasted Yukons and balsamic onion jam. It wasn't just about familiar flavors -- it was perfectly prepared.

Maple-glazed pork belly bacon and eggs, striped bass with black olives and fingerlings in white wine sauce and homemade linguine and meatballs round things off.

Portions are pretty hefty, so you can easily share dessert. However, with offerings like campfire s'mores and honey cheesecake with crème fraîche sauce, you probably won't want to. We thoroughly enjoyed the blackberry tart with cornmeal shortbread crumble; just-tart-enough key lime sauce gave this finale an edge. Ice cream sandwiches are another fun way to go -- try the chocolate cake ice cream version that's finished with cinnamon Guinness chocolate sauce.

Service throughout our meal was pleasant and well-meaning, if noticeably slow. Nonetheless, this was a place that surprised us in a good way, thanks to executive chef Sean Curry's commitment to quality ingredients and an organic-leaning eye for details.

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