A Dream Deferred
Just as when the Olympics are over, the Little Dream Team is breaking up. The modern-Italian specialist Todd Stein (Cibo Matto, The Florentine) will leave the kitchen of Piccolo Sogno Due (340 N. Clark St., 312-822-0077), owned in part by the equally capable Italian chef Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno), at the end of the month. “I have been thinking about a little slower-paced lifestyle for a couple of years,” Stein says. He plans to move to Atlanta to rejoin Concentrics Restaurants, the group that operated the now-closed Cibo Matto, to run Two Urban Licks and consult on other projects. At Piccolo Sogno Due, Gabriel Hernandez earns a promotion to chef de cuisine, under Priolo, who plans to operate both kitchens. Priolo says Due’s menu will likely become a bit more traditional. Bummer for Priolo to lose Stein, but it does open the salary-cap space for Tony Mantuano.
End of the Moderno Era
Tomorrow, the chef John des Rosiers (Inovasi) opens Royce (1850 2nd St., Highland Park, 847-433-8600) on the site where he ran the well-regarded, less-well-patronized Italian restaurant Moderno, which closed December 22. “We think people just weren’t into it,” he says. “We did a good job, but sometimes it doesn’t matter.” Royce’s menu skews more casual than Moderno’s did, with roast chicken, skirt steak, Caesar salad, and a page devoted to specialty burgers such as the Godfather (mozzarella, pancetta, giardiniera, Parmesan mayonnaise) and the Austin (barbecue sauce, fried onions, coleslaw, cheddar). “Even if it’s really casual, the basic philosophy is never going to change, no matter what we do,” des Rosiers says. “Everything is from small farms and sustainable. We’re still making everything by hand, from scratch at the restaurant.” Good to see some things don’t change, even if what’s moderno one day is passé the next.
Fresh off the December opening of Little Market Brasserie, Mercadito Hospitality (Mercadito, Tavernita) announced the name of their upcoming project in the River North Hop Haus space: Tippling Hall (640 N. Franklin St., no phone yet), a tip of the cap to their beverage-minded partners Tippling Bros. “If you are hungry at 12 o’clock [midnight], this is the place you will think of,” says Alfredo Sandoval, a partner. Inheriting Hop Haus’s 4 a.m. liquor license, Tippling Hall will serve food whenever it’s open, along the lines of New York’s Blue Ribbon. “Creative comfort bar food done by a chef,” Sandoval says. “Foodie in the sense of great flavors, textures, and combinations. Foodie for the masses.” They hope to open in June, meaning the closing staff will be locking up at sunrise.
“Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.” —Walt Kelly (1913–73), American animator and cartoonist
Five Questions for Patricia Yeo
Yeo, best known for New York’s AZ and a stint on Top Chef: Masters, signed on with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to pitch in at Big Bowl and other projects.
Dish: How did your move to Chicago come about?
Patricia Yeo: Marc Bernard, the executive chef at Big Bowl, reached out to me. He just Facebooked me. I was already thinking about coming to Chicago. Chicago is a fantastic food city. For crying out loud, it’s one of the best food cities in the country.
D: How did you get into cooking in the first place?
PY: I didn’t start cooking until I turned 30. I have a degree in biochemistry. I planned on [getting a graduate] degree, but I never went back. [Instead,] I started working for Bobby Flay before he became Bobby Flay. I blame him for the fact that I’m still in the business.
D: What kinds of changes can we expect at Big Bowl?
PY: There’s no real mandate yet. [Big Bowl is] about 15 years old. Maybe it just needs to catch up with what’s happening in the Asian food scene. We went from thinking about Italian being [strictly] red sauce and Ligurian. Then it started specializing into the regions. And I think that’s the same thing that’s happened to Chinese food. Now we think about Cantonese, Sichuanese, and Hunanese.
D: What are you looking forward to about Chicago?
PY: Exploring. There’s some of the best Mexican food here.
D: Is there is anything you won’t eat?
PY: I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not crawling in my mouth.
I Cover the Waterfront
Earth + Ocean (125 Randhurst Village Dr., Mount Prospect, 847-398-3636), a new suburban project from the chef Rodelio Aglibot and two of his Sunda collaborators, is scheduled to open in late February in the Randhurst Village center. A few highlights from the wide-ranging menu:
• Miso-candied bacon and pumpkin seed popcorn
• Disco fries—french fries with gravy and cheese sauce (the menu also promises Lipitor)
• Roasted duck and daikon cake, with a 60-degree egg, crispy onions, and escarole
• Ginger-honey-braised short-rib pot roast with rice porridge
• Filipino adobo pork belly with snow pea shoots
• Gnocchi with béchamel, nutmeg, and pesto
• Churro crullers with chocolate fondue and pistachio
Fitting to have so many influences at a restaurant with the name Earth + Ocean, which covers the whole surface of the planet. Someone could still one-up them, though, with Earth + Ocean + Magma.
In two weeks or so, the Korean interloper Ahjoomah’s Apron (218 W. Cermak Rd., 312-326-2800) opens in Chinatown, like a culinary embassy. “I live in Bridgeport, and I hated the idea of having to go all the way to the North Side for good Korean food. For any Korean food,” says Su Lee, the owner. Menu offerings will include dolsot bibimbap with beef, vegetables, or kimchi; ossam bulgogi (pork with squid); appetizers such as kimchi pancakes, chicken wings, and Korean dumplings; and the dessert sujunggwa, a juice made with persimmons and cinnamon. “The chef put that on because my Korean name is Su Jung,” Lee says. Or you could call it the Embassy Sweets.
New Review: Henri
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Henri previously was not rated. The review appears in the January issue, on newsstands now.
Henri (18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763). French.
★★ (very good)
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Consistently good but rarely surprising, Dirk Flanigan’s classic French dishes and Frenchy inventions deliver style and taste to match the attractive dining room. Steak tartare zeroes in on tender beef instead of salt or sour, and archetypical escargot thoughtfully includes precisely sized brioche cubes to sop up leftover garlic butter. Risks such as figs with lobster and pumpkin with tuna crudo succeed, but a few tricks—tea and foie gras touches, pouring tableside—get overused. The tourist-heavy traffic along Michigan Avenue spurs safe-sounding menu items such as sole meunière and rib eye au poivre, along with tourist prices. Good cocktails; creative but expensive wine list.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
- Who salted the salmon at The Local Chicago?
- The Roger Bannister of eggplant comes from Lao Sze Chuan.
- Pollack calculates charm at Hearty.
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Things to Do
- Celebrate Deschutes Brewery’s expansion to the Chicago market at Stout Barrel House & Galley (642 N. Clark St., 312-475-1390). Today from 4 to 11 p.m., a four-course dinner with beer pairings is $35, including a commemorative glass to take home, and Deschutes staff members will answer questions from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Call Stout for full menu and reservations.
- Wear your stretch-waist pants to 25 Degrees (736 N. Clark St., 312-943-9700) for a weekly fried chicken special starting this Sunday. Chicken and a choice of two sides (classic southern fare like mashed potatoes, collard greens, and cornbread) are just $12.
- Book your reservations for Chicago Restaurant Week, February 1 through 10, when more than 250 restaurants will feature prix-fixe lunches for $22 or dinner menus for $33 or $44. Perennial Virant, Topolobampo, Sepia, and Mercadito promise above-average bang for your buck. Find the full list of participating restaurants here.
- Johnnie Blue (2619 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-597-4444) opened Friday in Lincoln Square, serving kebabs and seafood grilled over wood charcoal—plus live music with no cover.
- The Monarch (1745 W. North Ave., 773-252-6053) begins its reign this Friday with the haute-cuisine chef Andrew Brochu (Graham Elliot, El Ideas, Kith & Kin) as king of the kitchen, serving elevated comfort food. The Monarch replaces an Uberstein.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Great Lake will reportedly close by the end of the month, and perhaps reopen in a different location. The owners have yet to reveal their plans. . . . The mixologist Michael Simon resigned from Carriage House and The Bedford last weekend due to “creative differences.” . . . India House in River North is closed until March for renovations. . . . Phil Vettel at the Tribune reports that a second Eleven City Diner is coming to Lincoln Park, in the Belden Centre at 2301 North Clark Street. . . . Lillie’s Q is coming to the Chicago French Market in late January, serving about half the Bucktown location’s menu.