Earlier this spring the three-year-old restaurant Proof changed hands from founding chef Carly Groban to chef Sean Wilson and Des Moines Social Club director Zachary Mannheimer.
Proof regulars will find lunch favorites like the falafel, paella and feta tabbouleh intact, but dinner is getting an increased focus from the new owners. After years of Friday-only dinners, Proof recently added Saturday dinners to the mix, but is switching over to Thursdays and Fridays due to the large number of requests for private parties on Saturdays. Starting in July the restaurant will have public dinners the second Saturday of each month. The menu features a mix of Mediterranean fare, including dishes from Spain, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt made with fresh Midwestern ingredients.
Wilson and Mannheimer’s intention is that dinners at Proof should be a destination, not just someplace you stop before a play, movie or concert. For dinners the restaurant features a prix fixe menu that starts with three courses for $30, with the opportunity to add additional courses for $10 each. (During our visit three courses were $35.) The dinner menu changes monthly, with a few favorites sticking around.
My wife and I chose the three-course option. For the starter course I went with the goat cheese dumplings in a tomato saffron broth with pink peppercorns, tarragon and lemon zest. The dish had a wonderful tart flavor, with mild use of tarragon that didn’t overwhelm the dish the way the herb sometimes can.
My wife selected the beet salad, made with a beet and balsamic marshmallow, arugula, goat cheese crema and pistachio picada. The beet and balsamic marshmallow was unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a restaurant. It is a truly innovative dish. The plating on each item we received was also stunning. It felt like we were at the tasting table on “Top Chef.”
For the second course I went with the eggplant Milanese, served with a cauliflower and almond couscous, cherry bomb radish, fried artichokes and fresh cheese. The eggplant was breaded and surprisingly crisp. The vegetable is so absorbent that it often sucks up the oils used to cook it, making it a soggy mess. The various components of the meal perfectly complimented each other, making each bite exquisite.
My wife ordered the seared petite tender, a beef dish served with fried potatoes, sherry braised cipolinni onions, garlic aioli and homemade romesco. My stolen bite of the beef was very good, but the potatoes really stole the show. I don’t know that I’ve ever had them that crisp before. I could eat them for three meals a day and never get tired of them.
The third course is a dessert course. I went with a hazelnut genoise with poached pears and burnt honey ice cream. My wife ordered the chocolate cake with orange couli and gelee, macerated raspberries and a vanilla cookie. It was a decadent end to a spectacular meal.
Under its new management, Proof is truly a destination dining location. The beautiful setting, knowledgeable staff and wonderful menu make it the perfect spot to spend an evening.