The Chocolate Sanctuary
Gurnee, Illinois | (224)944-0808| website

Let’s first make it clear that the Chocolate Sanctuary is not a Chocolate Confectionary. The Chocolate Sanctuary is an upscale casual restaurant that infuses some of their signature dishes with touches of chocolate. Guests can enjoy a number of different menu items that embrace the cocoa bean as well as many other items on the menu that do not have any form of chocolate.

I had the opportunity to visit the Chocolate Sanctuary. Their new fall/winter menu adds the following selections to their menu: Red Mole Brick Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin Risotto, and a Cocoa Candied Bacon Flatbread Sandwich with Turkey and Mozzarella Cheese.

The restaurant is warm and inviting with a gorgeous fireplace that complements the space beautifully. Their large curved bar gives the restaurant a comfortable modern feel. Unlike many restaurants, the design and materials used in the restaurant allows the guests to carry on conversations without the need to raise their voices to be heard. All in all, this is a non-pretentious upscale casual restaurant with a creative menu of exceptional food.

The passion and creativity of Executive Chef Ahmed G. Mora came through in the delicate flavors and beautiful plating. This restaurant is home to two of the best appetizers I’ve had… the filet mignon with the pad Thai dipping sauce and the spiced cocoa butternut squash soup. The filet mignon was perfectly cooked, tender, and juicy. The peanut sauce that accompanied the filet was surprisingly light but still full of flavor. The soup was very well executed. The chef introduced cocoa and other spices to the soup to add flavor without overpowering the squash. Very high marks for both appetizers!

The entrees I sampled were all outstanding. The chef did an incredible job of balancing all the delicate flavors without letting the chocolate theme overwhelm the palette. All the entrees were flavorful and cooked to perfection. The cocoa pan seared scallops exceeded my expectations. The Red Mole Chicken was also a knockout and a perfect signature dish for the restaurant.

The two most popular dishes on the menu are the Cocoa Nib Crusted Salmon and the Dark Cocoa and Stout braised T-Rex style Short Rib… and it’s easy to see why. The crust on the salmon was fantastic and the bacon citrus blanc sauce really brought it alive. The Braised Short Rib was my absolute favorite dish of the evening. I loved the cocoa and stout flavors and the meat just fell apart with the fork. For dessert, don’t leave the restaurant without trying their chocolate martini… truly one of a kind.

In summary, my overall experience was simply fantastic! I am planning on making the drive out from the city in the near future to share the Chocolate Sanctuary experience with my close friends!

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Also published on examiner.com

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