Green Zebra is the closest thing to Candle 79, Horizons or Millennium that Chicago has to offer. GZ is modern, romantic, expensive (though not nearly as expensive as the three aforementioned places), fusion-y, and full of artfully-presented meals on square plates. The menu uses words like "reduction" and "emulsion."
That said, I'm not sure why they insist on always offering one fish or chicken dish, and I'm not sure why the menu is so heavy on eggs. The vegan food here almost seems like a hasty afterthought.
About a third of the menu can be made vegan. Strangely, these dishes are marked with a (V), but ARE NOT vegan by default. The "V" just means that the dish can be made vegan. Make sure to tell your server if you're vegan, otherwise you'll end up getting a dish you thought was vegan, but in fact contains dairy or eggs. The menu is confusing in this regard.
To start I had a green papaya/hearts of palm salad ($10) which was decent, but didn't stand out in any way. The distinct flavors of the green papaya and hearts of palm seemed to jumble together into a mish-mash of tartness.
For main courses I had the "slow-roasted shittake mushrooms in crispy potato with cabbage" ($12) and the "sweet potato dumpling with pecans and mandarin oranges" ($13). The shittake dish was tasty at first but seemed to become saltier and saltier the more I ate. When I looked closely, I could see salt crystals still sitting atop the sushi-shaped rolls. I thought the cabbage was a nice touch and the shittake mushrooms were prepared well and made to melt in your mouth; but the salt became overwhelming by the end.
My sweet potato dumpling dish was, however, excellent and the highlight of the meal for me. The dumpling shells were somehow simultaneously crispy and soft, filled with a creamy sweet potato puree, which mixed perfectly with the tiny, soft orange slices, all of which created an intriguing mix of savory and sweet flavors, done subtly.
For dessert I had their only vegan option, a mini slice of chocolate cake with banana sorbet and caramel sauce ($8). The chocolate was too subdued for my taste (but nicely moist). But sandwiched between the chocolate were nicely-salted layers of peanut butter/cream that crunched in your mouth like tiny, delicious crystals. I've never experienced a texture like that and was amazed by it, actually. The dessert wasn't perfect, but it came together on a whole and was worth it for the novelty value of the peanut cream alone.
I found the service here to be mixed. My water was always kept filled by busboys, but my waiter was sullen and not very helpful. Toward the end of the meal, another server randomly took my dessert order, and she was far friendlier, so maybe I just had bad luck with my original server.
This is a great place to take a date. Most of the people there seemed to be celebrating an anniversary or a birthday or something special. All the men wore blazers and all the women looked like they just came off a catwalk in Milan.
I think the biggest draw of Green Zebra, aside from its upscale atmosphere and unusual food, is the prices. The dishes here are innovative (if not always made perfectly) and edgy. At $12-15 a piece, they're actually quite cheap for what they offer and the portion sizes are pretty good. Dishes like these in New York or San Francisco would easily cost 50% more and don't necessarily taste better. I'm impressed that Green Zebra is able to be so affordable, actually.
If the restaurant were more vegan-friendly, and the dishes were more consistent in their quality, I'd give this place one more star. As it stands, this is the the most upscale vegetarian food that a city of meat and potatoes can produce. (If you're looking for an all-vegetarian place in Chicago that's sort of posh, Karyn's Cooked is your other best bet).