Miss Asia (434 W Diversey Pkwy.; 773-248-3999), a 70-seat BYO in the remodeled Thai Me Up space, has opened, and it may cover more square miles than any Asian restaurant in Chicago. “The main thing is the Thai cuisine,” says Charoen Amornpheerakul, the co-owner. “But we have Cambodian dishes. Indian dishes, Chinese. Mongolian, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, Nepalese. Also Singapore.” Most of Amornpheerakul’s kitchen staff are Thai, but he brought in chefs that specialized in many of the above countries’ foods to train his staff. “We separate each country,” he says. “We don’t mix together.” There’s a fair amount of crossover in some of these cuisines, but we can only imagine what goes on in that kitchen.Quotable
“I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is two weeks.” –Totie Fields (1930-78), American comedianLadies’ Man
Michael Serratore understands women—or at he least claims to. “I have the best dish for the ladies,” says Serratore, the co-chef/owner of Trattoria Isabella (217 N. Jefferson St.; 312-207-1900). “Chicken stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. And I’m not giving out all the ingredients. But ladies love it, because it melts in their mouths.” The new traditional Italian spot has fifties-style booths in the bar, old-fashioned wine barrels, homemade pasta, and fresh fish flown in daily. We didn’t care for the chicken, but we loved the piping hot minestrone bursting with fresh veggies—a far cry from the usual murky stew of overcooked potatoes, flavorless celery and carrots, and limp rotini.Wine, Tapas, Lombard
Praga (229 W. St. Charles Rd., Lombard; 630-495-0470) plans to add Bonton, a small wine bar at the same address, by the beginning of May. “It will be much, much more than a little wine bar,” says Pavel Tykvart, the owner. “I have to reach into my vocabulary to tell you about something very nice and special. It will be one of the first really modern European wine bars in the Chicago area. For example, the light fixtures are so modern they were not made yet. They’re being made in Germany next week.” Expect European tapas, 200 mostly American (not European?) wines, TVs tuned to concerts, Italian leather couches, and a glassed-in wine room. Oh, and one other interesting feature: “You can fold the room in half,” says Pavel. “It’s got identical halves.”You Know, in Case We Want to, Like, Eat There
When we called a new Lebanese spot named Habibi (1225-27 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-9318) to find out the address, a guy who described himself as “sort of the manager” asked, “Why do you need the address?”She Said It
“We will start by giving food to people who live above us and have put up with the construction, and people who have helped us, the bank and construction workers and everyone else. To say thank you and sort of test the recipes.” –Liz Finan, co-owner of O’Shaughnessy’s Public House (4557 N. Ravenswood Ave.; 773-944-9896), a “healthy” 161-seat Irish bar/restaurant opening April 15th in the former Zephyr’s space that is promising Irish traditions such as a “ploughman’s lunch” (cheese, meat, and Branston pickle)Feel-Good Story
How far will Charlie Trotter’s (816 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-248-6228) go for its customers? Brad Barkin, a loyal Dish reader, shared this tale with us. He and his wife recently planned to celebrate their second anniversary at Trotter’s, and Barkin, the day before their reservation, requested a banana/chocolate cake to mirror the couple’s wedding cake. No guarantees were made, but Barkin sent a picture of the cake to the hostess anyway. After their dinner the next night, Trotter’s pastry chef, Della Gossett, had a cake delivered to their table. “It was a scaled-down exact replica of our wedding cake, standing six inches tall,” Barkin says. “Four tiers, same intricate design, candied pearls. I’m just a regular paying customer who made a crazy request 36 hours in advance, and they nailed it.”Things to Do
- Go to Quartino (626 N. State St.; 312-698-5000) at 7 o’clock tonight (March 26th), and sample Piedmont’s wines of Azienda Agricola Gomba Boschetti Barolo ($30, includes a bottle to take home). After a few drinks, try saying “Azienda Agricola Gomba Boschetti Barolo.” Good fun.
- Order a sandwich on potbelly.com, skip the long lunch line at your area Potbelly’s, and go right to the register. You have to create an account, but it’s still a great idea.
- Look into making reservations at Kiki’s Bistro (900 N. Franklin St.; 312-335-5454) between March 27th and 29th, during which the restaurant will be lit only by candlelight in honor of Earth Hour.
Congrats to all the locals who got James Beard nominations: Grant Achatz (Alinea); Geoffrey Baer/Dan Protess (WTTW); Graham Elliot Bowles (for his work at Avenues); Brian Duncan (Bin 36); Janet Rausa Fuller (Chicago Sun-Times); Olivia and Isabella Gerasole (spatulatta.com); Vince Gerasole (CBS 2 Chicago); Robert Louey/Claudia Pandji (Sepia); Rich Melman (Lettuce Entertain You); Carrie Nahabedian (Naha); Mindy Segal (HotChocolate); Bruce Sherman (North Pond); and the servers at Spiaggia. And Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap won an America’s Classics Award. Good luck to all at the awards on June 8th.Dot Dot Dot . . .
Another Texas de Brazil, the Brazilian churrascaría with a location in Schaumburg, is slated to open in May just off Michigan Avenue at 51 East Ohio Street. . . . On March 31st, the Brookfield Zoo opens The Pavilions, four new event spaces to showcase executive chef Robert Ares’s expanded menu. . . . Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (25 E. Ohio St.; 312-329-9463), a national chain with a location in Lincolnshire, opens on April 11th. . . . Lawry’s The Prime Rib (100 E. Ontario St.; 312-787-5000) has named Domingo Chavez, formerly of Don’s Fishmarket, its executive chef. . . . Cub legend Ernie Banks has launched his own wine (512 Chardonnay, a 2007 vintage from EOS Estate in Paso Robles); proceeds go directly to his Live Above & Beyond Foundation, which provides scholarships, sports equipment, and more to kids in underprivileged neighborhoods. Let’s drink two.