Dish Flash: Eight Questions for Homaro Cantu
Ing (951 W. Fulton Market; 855-834-6464), the new restaurant from the Moto chef Homaro Cantu, is named both as an acronym for “imagining new gastronomy” and after the verb suffix that signals, appropriately enough, the progressive tense. While telling Dish about the forthcoming spot, Cantu revealed that Ing would be imagining more new aspects of the restaurant-going experience than just new food.
Dish: First off, when will Ing open?
Homaro Cantu: The first open date will be Valentine’s Day. Soft open. We’re taking limited reservations until March 1st. March 1st will be the grand opening.
D: Otom used to occupy the space where Ing will be. Is it very different?
HC: Every wall and floor and outlet has been redone. The kitchen table [downstairs] does all miracle berries. I call it the flavor-twisting table. There are three kitchens. There’s one where the kitchen table is at, and two in the main dining room.
D: There are kitchens in the dining room?
HC: You need to see it. It looks more like a piece of furniture than a kitchen. But when you walk in, you will see the first kitchen right in the main dining room.
D: What can you tell me about the miracle berry?
HC: When you eat this berry, it makes sour things taste sweet. And if you take that to a different level, if you eat a lemon, it tastes like lemonade. If you take soda water and lemon juice, going a step further, you now have Sprite. If you take lemon and sour cream, you now have cheesecake. So we are basically twisting everything we know about seasoning food and creating something that is completely inside out.
D: How does the menu work if you don’t order miracle berry dishes?
HC: I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it’s divided into different sections. One is called Heat. One is called Cool. Melt. Boil. And Sweeten. So everything can end in -ing. The final section is just called Cook. Everything except Cook is à la carte. When you order “cooking,” you are basically dining by the hour.
D: You mean that customers pay by the hour?
HC: Yes. I can’t quote you on the price because it will always be case by case. But you come in, you say, “I have an hour and half” or “I have eight hours that I want to sit here and be entertained.” You tell us what you want—beers, wine, cocktails, food. And the price is all-inclusive, including tax and tip. I have two young daughters, three and five years old. My wife and I are always concerned about how long it’s going to take to eat out. You just don’t know.
D: So there are three possible ways to approach the menu?
HC: We have flavor-tripping, cooking, or just regular dining. Flavor-tripping happens at the kitchen table with the miracle berries. It seats only four people. “Cooking” is by the hour. And then regular dining is just the à la carte menu.
D: If I choose the by-the-hour option, what determines what kind of food I’ll get? Can I request a broad category, like meat, chicken, or vegetables?
HC: No, not with the food. You are in the hands of myself and chef Thomas Bowman. And you’re also in the hands of GM and brewmaster Garrett Kern. Whatever they want to do, [although] we take dietary restrictions. You can say, “I’m in the mood for cocktails.” Or “I would like some beer.” “I would like a little wine in there,” and then we just kind of let it happen.