Briejo (211 Harrison St., Oak Park), a promising spot in Oak Park’s arts district, is slotted to open in early May, with a helping hand from Jody André (Speakeasy) and Nicole Parthemore (She She). André and Parthemore are developing the menu for Brigette Lytle’s “American eclectic” restaurant. “It’ll be fine dining but a lot of comfort food,” says Lytle. “Like a center cut pork chop seared in a butter brandy. A truffled risotto. Also very thin-crust pizzas as well. Maybe five a night.”Quotable
“Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” -Milton Berle (1908-2002), American comedian7 Questions for Antonia Asimis, 33, owner of Nia (803 W. Randolph St.; 312-226-3110), a 65-seat Mediterranean spot that opened on February 15th
D: We understand you come from a restaurant family. True?
NA: My father has been a purveyor to the restaurant industry for over 30 years. Got his start on Randolph Street [at Santa Fe Foods, next door to Nia].
D: What’s the concept of Nia?
NA: It’s an intimate room with a number of small plates. About 30 right now. We’re in an old tailor shop that was my mother’s business. We did a gut rehab.
D: Who’s your chef?
NA: Greg Cannon [formerly of Haro]. I posted it on Craig’s List and had so many come my way, but then found Greg through a friend. He was equally enthused because he came off Spanish-style tapas. Excited about mixing it up with Greek, French, Italian. We even have dishes from Lebanon, Israel, North Africa, and Turkey.
D: What else?
NA: We make berry-infused sangría. We marinate it and then you can taste the infused berry throughout. I also have Plomari in individual ouzo bottles. Seven different botanicals in there. Goes really well with the charcuterie dish.
D: What charcuterie dish?
NA: We carry pata negra. It’s a blackfooted pig that only grazes on acorns. It’s an import from Spain. I’ve read about chefs fighting over this stuff. It’s exquisite. Like prosciutto but much better.
D: And cheese?
NA: We have Valdeón from northern Spain where caves are found. They produce this blue cheese up there. It’s a true blue because they don’t artificially pocket the blue. We serve it with a date chutney and quince paste, and you can pair it up with different meats. It’s really good with the smoked duck.
D: How about desserts?
NA: We are doing an amazing amerena cherry tiramisù. We found a purveyor who brings ricotta in fresh from Italy. We order it on Sunday. The buffalo is milked on Monday. Processed on Tuesday. We have it in our hands Wednesday night.
“The bottom layer is pure chocolate. Then a layer of chocolate almond sponge cake. Then coffee-flavored buttercream. Then the chocolate ganache. Then more buttercream. And then vanilla almond biscuit on the top. And chocolate ganache again to finish the cake.” -Halyna Fedus, describing her massively popular Opera Cake ($35; $4.75 a slice) from Shokolad (2524 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-276-6402), a Ukrainian bakery/breakfast/lunch spot that opened on January 24thEven in Winter
A trusted FOD recently got carryout from Summer Noodle & Rice (1123 W. Granville Ave.; 773-761-8500), a four-month-old BYO in Edgewater, and raved about it. “Delicious across the board,” she said, after sampling basil chicken, shrimp pad Thai, and grilled beef salad. “The basil chicken and beef salad were both spicy and fresh, and the pad Thai was juicy and chock full of plump shrimp. For whatever reason, good, cheap Thai food is very, very hard to find.” A quick phone call to Summer, and we learned that chef/partner Akechitra Waranon makes everything fresh to order.Things to Do
- If you’re a woman, go to D.O.C. Wine Bar & Bistro (2602 N. Clark St.; 773-883-5101) on March 5th for wine or Champagne and get a free manicure and massage—not from some creepy guy at the bar. The pampering comes courtesy of Sheque Chicago.
- Go to Cafe Selmarie (4729 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-989-5595) on a Tuesday and try the special bison burger on fresh-baked brioche bun served with homemade coleslaw and duck fat frites ($10).
- Stay away from the King.
Tabaq (1245 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-944-1245), a budget-friendly 48-seat Indian/Pakistani spot specializing in naan, kebabs, and fish biryani, opened on February 12th . . . The Cheese Stands Alone (4547 N. Western Ave.), a dedicated cheese shop in Lincoln Square, has closed. Per its web site, owners Matt and Sarah Parker “are currently seeking a venue that will better serve our customers as well as our cheese.” . . . Morton’s opens a Naperville branch of its famous steak house on March 7th (1751 Freedom Dr.; 630-848-3200). . . . Congratulations to Brian Duncan of Bin 36 (339 N. Dearborn St.; 312-755-9463), who will be named Chicago Wine Director of the Year at the Gourmet Wine Cellar, a May 15th event at the Field Museum hosted by Gourmet magazine. . . . Masouleh Restaurant (6653 N. Clark St.; 773-262-2227), a tiny Persian mom-and-pop spot in Rogers Park, opened on February 1st. . . . Avenue M (695 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 312-243-1133) has a new exec chef, Mariano Aguirre (formerly of Charlie’s on Leavitt), who has replaced Daniel Kelly and revamped the menu. (Daniel Kelly, where are you?)