Roka Akor and Bombay Spice Grill & Wine to Open in River North
Two new restaurants, both under the same ownership, are scheduled to open this spring at 111 West Illinois Street, on what is already a big food corner, with Naha across Illinois and the Topolobampo/Frontera Grill/Xoco supercenter across Clark. One is Roka Akor, a 6,700-square-foot Japanese sushi and robata restaurant with branches in London, Hong Kong, and Scottsdale, Arizona. The robata, a type of grill, will be located in the dining room. “It’s a style of cooking based on the Himalayan style,” says Art Mendoza, a partner. “We use a mesquite charcoal. We use very thin metal skewers, and they cook the old-fashioned way.” Sushi will be available à la carte or in 9- to 12-course omakase menus. The other new place will be Bombay Spice Grill & Wine, a full-service 50-seater serving traditional Indian food, where diners can build their own dishes, choosing proteins, veggies, and sauces. “Everything on the menu is less than 500 calories,” Mendoza says. If you can’t get into any restaurants at that corner, you could always walk less than two blocks to Sunda, Epic, Hub 51, Paris Club, English, Maggiano’s, La Madia, India House, or Mastro’s.
Four Questions for Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm
In a YouTube video today, Katz, Boehm (current owners of Perennial), and Paul Virant (Vie) announced their partnership on Perennial Virant, the next-generation Perennial. (Perennial’s chef, Ryan Poli, announced earlier this week that he was moving to the upcoming Tavernita.) Katz and Boehm filled in some of the blanks on the change.
Dish: Will Perennial close at all as it morphs into Perennial Virant?
Kevin Boehm: We will probably close for two weeks. Ryan is there until March 7th.
D: Will there be remodeling?
Rob Katz: We’re not gutting Perennial. With the arrival of someone like Paul
Virant, it’s justified that we make some changes. 555 Design is going to come in and change the place around a little bit.
D: Will it be like Perennial, like Vie, or a whole new thing?
KB: Paul’s ideals lie with Vie. He has very close relationships with farmers and everything that happens at Green City Market. I think it will be Vie [at heart], a little less expensive. More approachable. Nobody embodies the Green City Market more than Paul.
D: Anything else?
RK: We want it to be known that we are ecstatic for Ryan. We appreciate everything that he did for Perennial. It’s a rare situation like this that works out for everyone. Just one of those rare instances where it comes up roses for everybody.
Blue Plato Special
When we were in college, we wanted to major in Burger Philosophy (1545 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.; no phone yet), which also happens to be the name of a new counter-service joint in Andersonville opening this spring. Daniel Alfaro, a partner in the project, says the philosophy is to make burgers more healthful, grinding the meat at the restaurant and using no processed food. Same with french fries: “No frozen crap or anything like that,” Alfaro says. The 40-seater (with 40 more on a patio if the permits go through) will also offer panini and shakes. As for us, we never did make it through Burger Philosophy 101. Switched to Burrito Psychology.
Who’s the Boss?
Speaking of burgers, Burger Boss (7512 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park; 708-452-7288) happens to be the name of a counter-service place scheduled to open April 1st in the western suburbs. Burgers will be 100 percent house-ground Angus beef, with several choices of buns, such as brioche, pretzel rolls, or whole-wheat, supplied by a yet-to-be-determined local bakery. If successful, this location could become a prototype. “We’d like to see about four or five Burger Bosses in the next two years,” says Anthony Gambino, a co-owner with his brother, Nick. (The Gambinos also own Cucina Paradiso in Oak Park.) The question of which Burger Boss will be the top boss sounds like one for Burger Philosophy.
“I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead—not sick, not wounded—dead.” —Woody Allen (1935–), American filmmaker
A new breakfast and lunch spot, logically called Brunch (343 W. Erie St.; no phone yet), is scheduled to open in June next door to the space that most recently housed the nightclub RiNo. The chef, Dan Tibbetts, spoke with Dish regarding some things we had heard about the place.
The menu. “Same menu all day,” Tibbetts says. “There’ll be an area out front for to-go and pastries, espresso, and coffee—possibly sandwiches. The dining room will have a breakfast bar with fresh waffles, cooked to order.”
The differences. “We still want the classic brunch feel,” he says. People can get over-easy eggs and toast, if they want. But we want to be a little more contemporary—possibly a tea-braised chicken and egg sandwich. We want to be a little different than the other places, like Orange.”
The shoeshine. The restaurant will have a shoeshine booth. “Especially during weekdays, and especially because we’re downtown, we’re going to try to get as much businessman business as we can,” he says. “We’ll have a ticker above the breakfast bar and a meeting room in the corner of the building.”
The hours. “At first we’ll be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” he says. “We’re eventually trying to open as early as 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We’re going to try and catch the hungry inebriated.”
The melting pot is on display at Hoyt’s (Hotel 71, 71 E. Wacker Dr.; no phone yet)—opening March 10th—and we don’t mean fondue. The chef, Gabriel Kolofon, has just arrived in Chicago, by way of Colorado, Mexico, and Buenos Aires. The conceit at Hoyt’s is modern American tavern, where “modern” apparently indicates that classic dishes will get a twist or two. Kolofon describes the Reuben sandwich: “We roast a lamb leg very slow, and we slice everything very thin. We make homemade sauerkraut [with] beer and fennel seeds. It’s a different flavor. The cheese is a special Swiss cheese, smoked, from Wisconsin.” The deviled egg is poached and deep-fried. The hanger steak has an Argentine marinade. We’re happy the owners chose the melting-pot definition of “American” instead of whatever definition produced American cheese.
• Calling it a day at DiSotto Enoteca with savory bites and wine.
• Good news for North Center, bad news for River North: Sola is staying in place, meaning the plans to revamp as ‘Ohana have been shelved.
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Things to Do
1. Celebrate spring’s impending arrival with Edelweiss Restaurant (7652 W. Irving Park Rd., Norridge; 708-452-6040) at a German-style Schlachtfest (February 25th to March 6th), which includes plates of traditional suckling pig and sides for $19.95.
2. Take free sips of sake and complimentary bites of sushi at Nabuki (18 E. First St., Hinsdale; 630-654-8880), which hosts a premium sake-tasting event February 28th from 5 to 9 p.m. (reservations recommended).
3. Round up the clan on March 1st for family dinner night (a new weekly event) from 6 to 8 p.m. at Flourish (1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.; 773-271-2253), where $6 pays for each person’s share of a family-style, kid-friendly dish, such as spaghetti marinara with house-made baguette.
4. If you’re a chef without a cause, contact Sarah Chusid at Kids In Danger, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the safety of children’s products. The Chicago-based organization is looking for a handful of talented chefs to donate a couple of tasting plates for 150 guests at its 13th annual Best Friend Award Night on May 19th. We challenge you to read this story and still say no.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Congratulations to all 21 of Chicago’s chef and restaurant semifinalists for the 2011 James Beard Foundation awards, including Girl & the Goat for best new restaurant, Paul Kahan (Blackbird) and Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) for outstanding chef, Spiaggia and Tru for outstanding restaurant, and Anthony Martin (Tru) for rising star chef of the year. The list of final nominees will be announced on March 21st. . . . After a three-month hiatus, Cloud 9 (604 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-857-1255), Lake View’s spot for xue-hua-bing (a fluffy Asian snack that combines shaved ice and ice cream) reopens Tuesday. . . . Pier 5736, fresh off a crosstown move and a makeover, reemerges today in Andersonville as Kingfisher Seafood Restaurant & Bar (5721 N. Clark St.; 773-506-7014). A liquor license is still in the works. . . . Overnight bites at Eggsperience on Ontario (35 W. Ontario St.; 312-870-6773), which was once a 24-hour stop for breakfast, are now limited to Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. . . . Newbies Bia for Mia (1147 W. Grand Ave.; 312-226-0312) and Hubbard Inn (110 W. Hubbard St.; 312-222-1331) both debuted their lunch menus (in addition to dinner) this week. . . . And congratulations to Jeff Ruby, Chicago magazine’s chief dining critic and former Dish scribe, for earning a 2011 City and Regional Magazine Association Award nomination for food or dining writing. The winner will be announced on May 2nd.