Photo by ben fant.
During a few years that were rough on restaurants and rougher on hotel restaurants, the Dana Hotel in River North had more than its share of roughage. Its restaurant space first housed Ajasteak, which opened in June 2008. In the fall of 2009, it lopped off the steak to rebrand as Aja. In May 2012, management minted Argent, and now it’s freestyle food + drink (Dana Hotel, 660 N. State St., 312-202-6050).
Ariel Bagadiong, who opened Ajasteak and worked at Aja, returns to lead Freestyle. “Not exactly sure why Argent never caught on,” he says. “I wasn’t there. I think the food was delicious.”
Bagadiong’s menu adds a new focus on small plates, many with an Asian tint, such as sesame chicken with soy glaze, chiles, and baby bok choy, or rock shrimp with roasted pineapple, ginger, garlic, and togarashi. The inclusive dinner menu also contains categories for soups and salads, larger main courses, maki, and raw bar items. Still a hotel restaurant, Freestyle also serves breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch.
Bagadiong also does his own desserts. His current favorite is a fried doughnut on cream cheese–white chocolate mousse topped with bananas Foster and candied walnuts. That sounds like a large volume of a lot of sweet things. Truly a freestyle dessert, we’d say.