Have Knives, Will Travel
The Zelig of the Chicago restaurant scene, Eric Aubriot (Le Français, Carlos’, Aubriot, Rhapsody, Escargot, Fuse, Alhambra, Il Fiasco, Custom House Tavern) has reappeared at Lure Izakaya Pub (2017 S. Wells St.; 312-225-8989), the latest entrant in the izakaya trend. Downstairs from the space that housed the acclaimed but short-lived Mulan, Lure specializes in seafood simply prepared with olive oil, sea salt, and lemon juice and then accompanied by complementary sauces—such as ponzu sauce for snapper and soy-mirin-sake sauce for sardines. Like the other izakayas, Lure’s menu items are small plates, and no sushi is available. Aubriot made his name with French food but has stopped in with Italian and Middle Eastern before this Japanese foray. “As long as you make great food and you have creativity, it doesn’t really matter where you are at,” he says. Not to mention that all the movement keeps us guessing. In the office pool for what Aubriot will do next, Pollack has Indian.
A friend of Dish checked out Lure on its opening weekend and gave us this early report:
Our gracious server told us Lure was modeled after the “Japanese after-work happy-hour pub,” but it felt as awkward as a deserted dance club. It was lights overload, from the blue aura behind the bar to a glowing red streak snaking through the floor and swirling projections on one of the walls. With a crowd, the décor might match the atmosphere. We picked at a dozen small plates the four of us ordered. The two best things we had—neither better than just good—were spicy tofu, fried and served with crushed peanuts and shredded pickled cabbage, and the special salad, with prosciutto, arugula, yellow beets, and blue cheese under a vinaigrette. The citrus marmalade glaze on the bacon-wrapped scallops was tasty, but the bacon was chewy and flavorless. Verdict: has potential, with better execution. The rock shrimp yamaimo fared worse. It was a mound of rice mixed with gooey raw egg yolk and puréed Japanese mountain potatoes, and topped with cold, half-cooked shrimp. Verdict: I don’t think I can swallow this. We cut the meal short, wandered through Chinatown, and filled up on bubble tea and Chinese pastries.
“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.” —Orson Welles (1915–1985), American film director
What you’ll find at Masada (2206 N. California Ave.; no phone yet), a Middle Eastern spot the owner, Shadi Ramli (Sultan’s Market), hopes will open in June:
• A cobblestone courtyard with three decks above it. The glass walls of the main seating area open up to overlook the courtyard.
• Mezze, or small plates. “Our specialty is going to be, for appetizers, saag,” Ramli says. “It’s freshly baked Middle Eastern bread, and they usually cook it with different meat on top or different spreads. We have like a lamb ravioli with pine nuts and yogurt sauce. Cornish game hen stuffed with wild rice and pine nuts and almonds, walnuts.”
• A smoothie bar. “For people who don’t drink alcohol.”
• Weekend entertainment. “We’re going to do combo percussion and DJ with world music.” Dancing, too.
• Family recipes. “The name is Masada, which is a city back home, in the Middle East,” Ramli says. “And it’s also my mom’s name.”
A Tale of Two Restaurants
The west-suburban martini bar Olive or Twist (6906 Windsor Ave., Berwyn; 708-484-1808) has knocked out some walls and expanded into the space next door to start an attached restaurant. Robert Nava, the chef at The Depot American Diner across the border in Chicago, created an upscale-casual menu and opened in early January. “It’s similar to a chop house,” says Nava, who cooked more high-end cuisine at The Signature Room at the 95th in the Hancock Tower. The menu includes “steaks, large-style salads, Caesar salads, Cobb salads, roasted chicken, barbecue ribs, tenderloin sliders, lasagne, shrimp manicotti, ahi tuna steak.” Nava now heads both kitchens. “I’m at The Depot in the morning and [Olive Or Twist] at night. So I split my time between the two,” he says. Working like the dickens, we’d say.
Enter the Dragon
Down to naming the place after an ingredient, the owners of Tzatziki (2485 N. Clark St.; no phone yet), a Mediterranean quick-service spot opening at the end of April in Lincoln Park, are modeling their venture after Chipotle. “I wasn’t crazy about their food, but the concept is great,” says Steve Morakalis, who previously owned and cheffed at Sugar Bowl in Des Plaines and Woody’s Pub in Elk Grove Village. The other chef/partner is Tony Dragonas, a.k.a. Tony the Dragon, who is relocating to Chicago from New York, where he operates a famous food cart on 64th Street. At Tzatziki, customers will select a meat and then choose from about 18 different toppings, including the namesake cucumber-yogurt sauce. Meats on offer will include chicken, pork, lamb, and beef, all spinning on skewers like gyros. Good luck with the opening, guys—we know how these things can drag on.
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On the Blog
• The city is her oyster, so what does the discerning Pollack choose to eat? Check out the new blog What Penny Eats to see what’s been on her plate lately.
Things to Do
1. Join the party at M Burger (161 E. Huron St.; 312-254-8500) on Thursday, where they’re celebrating their first birthday with—what else?—a free burger with any purchase (at the Huron Street location only).
2. Feast on a three-course prix fixe dinner at Saigon Sisters (567 W. Lake St.; 312-496-0090). The $25 deal is available 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday and includes the popular che (butternut squash and coconut milk custard) as a dessert option.
3. Observe Lent (or simply indulge your propensity for fried fish) at Chevy Chase Country Club (1000 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling; 847-465-2311), with an all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry for $11.95.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Fish Bar (2956 N. Sheffield Ave.; 773-687-8177) drops anchor today next door to owners Michael Kornick and David Morton’s other joint, DMK Burger Bar. . . . As reported by Time Out Chicago, Top Chef Dale Levitski plans to start serving Sunday brunch at Sprout on March 20th. The kicker? No kids allowed. . . . Gaztro-Wagon, Fritz Pastry, and Hum Spirits will together take to the kitchen—Logan Square Kitchen (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-342-2333), that is—April 6th through 9th for the pop-up restaurant Glimpse. Meals from the create-your-own tasting menu will highlight seasonal fare and will be served family style. Reservations can be made via Twitter (@GLIMPSE_CHI). . . . Fin Sushi Bar (1742 W. Wilson Ave.; 773-961-7452), from one of the owners of Uptown’s Dib Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine, opened March 1st as a 40-seat BYO. Unusual rolls include a Thai-style roast duck/spinach roll and a roll with snow crab, avocado, ebi, and ika that’s toasted on the outside and served with Thai seafood mayo.