If you’ve ever eaten Indian, Creole or Cajun cuisines, then you’ve probably had the experience of not noticing individual ingredients. Those cuisines attune you to flavor combinations, not to the individual parts.
Thyme Craft Kitchen in Peru is at the other end of the culinary spectrum.
Most of Thyme’s menu items bear a capsule description of where the meat or produce was procured. Wyanet Locker appears with meat dishes, for example, while vegetable-heavy dishes are linked to farms in Leesburg, Indiana and Fairbury and Atlanta, both in Illinois. Notably, a kitchen helper popped outside to snip fresh herbs from a planter at the edge of the patio.
Ingredients matter here, though the emphasis on freshness does not dictate a meat-and-potatoes menu, by any means. I ordered an Italian dish while my dinner companion went Mediterranean and ordered a more exotic “shakshouka,” an Israeli dish of eggs, tomato, goat cheese and vegetables.
The evident goal here is to get diners to taste and savor those farm-fresh ingredients, which are necessarily paired with milder flavors and textures to make the chef’s preferences stand out. I ordered gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) tossed with locally-procured sage sausage, red pepper and asparagus. Against the neutral dumplings, the farm-to-table meat and veggies left a strong response on my palate.
The motto at Thyme might be summed up as, “Good food – period.” Cooking with farm-fresh ingredients is a culinary priority here.
There is no scrimp on value. Two soups, two soft-drinks and two rather exotic entrees came to $47 before the gratuity.
If freshness matters (and it should) come to Thyme, but expect an ever-shifting menu dictated more by availability of ingredients than by which way public tastes are trending, but that is a big part of the fun.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media Illinois. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: 405 Fifth St., Peru