Nozumi Asian Cuisine (100 W. Higgins Rd., South Barrington; 847-783-0001), which closed abruptly at the end of January, reopened under new owners on Friday (with a slightly different name—our records show that it used to be called Nozumi Japanese Cuisine). The new ownership team kept most of the menu intact—wagyu rib eye, short ribs, and calamari fries made the cut—but they ramped up advertising, added a happy hour and appetizer special, and, most importantly, lowered prices. “It was never my pricing. It was the former owners’. And it was too high,” says Andy Park, the chef and a co-owner under both regimes. Note to restaurateurs: We will gladly accept a temporary closing if it means you reopen with lower prices.
“There’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolate.” –Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), Portuguese poet
Make Yourself at Home
“Wholey Guacamole [91 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe; 847-242-0909] was a small Mexican restaurant with a fairly limited menu,” says Margarita Challenger, the chef and co-owner who took over the place two years ago. She wanted to make the menu more authentic, but she did it stealthily. “I slowly made changes. I didn’t want to scare away the people we had. Four months later, five months later, the menu was all different.” Now Challenger is sloughing off the last vestiges of Wholey Guacamole—the name and the location—and moving the operation down the road to open as Guanajuato (73 Green Bay Rd.; 847-242-0909), on June 1st. Named after Challenger’s home state in Mexico, Guanajuato will retain the enchiladas that make up the core of Wholey Guacamole’s menu, while adding homemade ice creams in flavors unusual for the United States but typical of Guanajuato, such as mole, avocado, cheese, and, in a special occasional offering, chicharrón (pork rind). Less adventurous dessert eaters can try strawberry, pecan, vanilla, or cajeta—but if ever there were a time in culinary history to try to sell pork-rind ice cream, this is it.
Also from the Department of Interesting Menu Overhauls: For the past few months, Armando Cisneros, an Ambria veteran in charge of the kitchen at Bella Bacinos (36 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange; 708-352-8882), has been shuttling to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to consult with Stefano Viglietti, the head chef for several well-regarded restaurants there. The result is a reworked menu that includes Neapolitan-style pizzas made in a wood-burning oven and ingredients sourced from local farmers whenever possible. The Viglietti-Bacinos partnership seems to be flourishing. “After working together—we’ve been friends for years—eight months, it’s working,” says Linda Bacin, a co-owner. “He’s happy; we’re happy.” Happiness is contagious—we wouldn’t be surprised to see some of this happiness spreading elsewhere in the Chicago area.
Mom’s old recipes in the name of Mom’s Old Recipe Mexican Restaurant (5760 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-467-1009) come from the restaurant Chiquis in Tilzapotla, a small town about 20 minutes from Cuernavaca in Mexico. “In a little town like that, we would go to the tables, get the order, go into the kitchen, and help my mom cook and get the food,” says Malena Basave, a chef-owner at Mom’s with her sister, Ana Arriaga. Shrimp ajillo, tacos acorazados, and fish tacos are featured on the menu at Mom’s, as well as a dessert of chocolate cake with flan on top. “Some people call it ‘impossible cake.’ We make cake with the flan, and nobody knows how it separates by itself,” Basave says. The family connection even extends to the next generation: The restaurant serves pickles made with Grandma’s recipe.
On the Blog
Things to Do
1. Meet the barbecue expert and author of Planet Barbecue Steven Raichlen at a reception, Q & A, and book signing at the University Club (6 E. Monroe St.) on May 25th, starting at 5:30 p.m. Make a reservation through The Book Stall in Winnetka at 847-446-8880.
2. Go Southern at a prix fixe dinner at Custom House Tavern (500 S. Dearborn St.; 312-523-0200), where guest chef Tory McPhail, from New Orleans’ famous Commander’s Palace, will collaborate with Aaron Deal, Custom House’s executive chef. May 24th, 6 p.m., $75 for four courses with cocktail pairings.
3. Chow with your chow on the patio at Meson Sabika (1025 Aurora Ave., Naperville; 630-983-3000) on Mondays and Tuesdays, when dogs get their own meal for $6. People food still available.
4. Open wine with your shoe. Sorta.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Mad Mark’s Mystic Pizza (871 E. Algonquin Rd., Schaumburg; 847-397-3100), described in its press release as “a high-energy dining experience,” is scheduled to open in June, serving specialty pizzas, panini, wraps, prime burgers, and salads. The 15,000-square-foot establishment will seat 750 people inside and 350 on a patio. . . . Something’s happening with buttons, poetry, and Girl & the Goat (809-813 W. Randolph St.), but we tuned out after “opening in June.” . . . A third Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is scheduled to open in Oak Brook (2105 Spring Rd.; 630-954-0000) on June 1st. . . . The six-month-old shared-kitchen bakery XOXO Edibles is run by an IT consultant and an escapee of real estate who make cupcakes, cookies, and specialty cakes. If you want a cake that looks like Yoda’s head, they’re your gals. . . . Café Twist (2218 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-281-3634), a storefront location of the frozen food brand Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, opens today in Lincoln Park. The menu is chockablock with pretzelly items, such as pretzel sandwiches, salads with pretzel croutons, and stuffed pizza pretzels.
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