State of the Union
Working on business partnerships for Visa, Mike Schatzman journeyed all over the world. “I’ve been a traveling buffoon for the last seven years of my life,” he says. After eating at Japanese restaurants in London, South Africa, and, of course, Japan, Schatzman looked at the Chicago Japanese landscape and saw nothing like his forthcoming Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar (230 W. Erie St.; no phone yet). The 70-seater is scheduled to open in May with the chef/partner Worachai Thapthimkuna (known as Chao), formerly of Sushi Wabi. The barbecue in the name is kushiyaki, skewered fish, meat, and vegetables cooked on a robata grill. The sushi will include smaller rolls than the Godzillas we’ve come to expect, so that diners can try more items. The menu reflects influences from everywhere—which shows its own kind of authenticity. “People tend to think that in Japan, they are traditionalists, and that’s not the case,” Schatzman says. “There is more innovation than we imagine going on in Japan.” Somehow, we don’t think he’s talking about “innovations” like adding cream cheese to maki.
“Pastry is the closest that a human being can get to creating a new food. . . . Pastry is infinitely exciting, because it’s less about showing the greatness of nature, and more about transmitting taste and flavor. Desserts are naturally denatured food.” —Alex Stupak, the former pastry chef at New York’s WD-50, as quoted in “Sweet Revolution,” in The New Yorker, January 3, 2011.
Spit and Polish
In news that broke too late to get more than a mention in the last Dish, Etno Village Grill (2580 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-698-8069) opened a week ago today. “We literally put up the ‘We Are Open’ sign just now, as we are on the phone,” Mark Kwiatkowski, an Etno partner, said then. Etno offers quick-service Eastern European food, such as cevapcici (Balkan sausage) on lepinja (a crusty pitalike bread) made to order with the diner’s choice of 20 condiments. “It’s modeled a little bit after Chipotle,” says Kwiatkowski, who was a partner in the bygone X/O in Lake View. Not a bad model. We actually model Dish after The Great Gatsby.
“Before this, my grandfather, he had a body shop in Chicago,” says Jason Bauer. “[My relatives] all worked there. They sold it a few years back and were looking for something else to do.” They made the natural jump from grilles to grills to open Bauer’s Brauhaus (45 W. Slade St., Palatine; 847-991-1040), an Old World German restaurant owned by Bauer that opened Monday. The menu has German classics, such as currywurst, schnitzel, and sauerbraten (made with short ribs instead of top round or rump roast), and German food’s close relatives, such as deviled eggs and fried pickles. The pickles—along with pickled carrots and beets—are made in-haus, as are the sauerkraut, apple butter, applesauce, and bratwurst, and, if Bauer’s plans pan out, the Thuringer sausage as well. And if your car gets clipped in the parking lot, you can get a good referral.
Gosu Off with a Bang
In the space that housed Rustik and the short-lived Rustico Grill, a new Korean-Japanese place opens today: Gosu (2515 N. California Ave.; 773-276-7330), from the former Hama Matsu chef/owner, Kyung Bang (known as Bang). The menu offers more Korean options than Hama Matsu did, as well as 30 maki, although diners aren’t limited to those. “When a customer walks in, if he wants something other than [what’s on] the menu, he just tells us what kind of fish or spicy or sweet. It could be a roll, it could be a plate. Whatever the customer prefers,” says Danny Kim, Bang’s son and a Gosu partner. That’s an accommodating mother. Our mothers always told us to eat what was put in front of us.
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Things to Do
1. Make one of the first seven reservations between 6 and 6:30 p.m. any evening through March 31st at Ria (Elysian Hotel, 11 E. Walton St.; 312-880-4400) and get the option to order a three-course prix fixe menu (including a glass of sparkling wine) for $75.
2. Test the limits of gluttony this Thursday at the Lincoln Park location of Small Bar (1415 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-525-2727), where $15 buys the first 50 people as many sliders and pints of Brooklyn Lager and Left Hand Brewing Company Milk Stout as can be consumed between 7 and 9 p.m.
3. Remember that old adage about free lunches, then take the Punxsutawney Plunge on February 2nd at South Water Kitchen (225 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-236-9300). Lunch—with seatings at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m.—is on the house for anyone willing to dine on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. Last year it snowed two inches on February 2nd.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
As the Dining Diva reported, Chris Curren is now the chef at Elate (Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron St.; 312-202-9900) as well as Blue 13. The chef de cuisine at Blue 13, Paul Taufner, is supervising day-to-day operations for the time being, while Curren chooses a chef de cuisine for Elate. “Once that happens, I will oversee the creative aspect of both restaurants,” Curren says. . . . Taco Joint Urban Taqueria and Cantina (1969 N. Halsted St.; 312-951-2457), a spot for Mexican street food from Edgar Castañeda of Zocalo, is open for business in Lincoln Park. . . . And a mile north, Barrio, An Urban Taqueria (714 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 773-360-8316) opened on Monday. . . . After landing a Michelin star and a cameo in Vince Vaughn’s new flick The Dilemma, Sepia is expanding its space (possibly to keep up with its profile). Private Dining by Sepia (135 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920) is slated to open this spring in the storefront next door, which at one time housed Maria Pinto’s boutique, making room for private dinners and cocktail receptions. . . . Another day, another accolade: Alinea—with Charlie Trotter’s, Vie, and Everest—made the list of the top 40 restaurants in the United States in Gayot’s 2011 restaurant rundown. Girl & the Goat was among the ten best new restaurants, Big Star got a shout-out as one of the top 40 “Cheap Eats,” The Bristol got a nod as an “Insider Pick,” and Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse was among the top ten steak houses.