The Fifth Element
The team behind Volo, Paramount Room and two Kitsch’ns plans to open a new concept in mid-October. “It’s our fifth spot, and we are calling it The Fifth,” says Jon Young of the 75-seat restaurant in an undisclosed location. (All Dish knows is it’s not in Roscoe Village.) “We’re also calling it The Fifth because chef [Stephen] Dunne has a concept of limiting each dish to five elements.” The menu is still in progress, but it will include steamed mussels, Kobe steak tartare, artisan flatbreads, and a boutique wine list. “We’re not looking to mimic ourselves,” says Young. “This place will be a cleaner modern food and drink spot in terms of vision and design elements.” We begged him to tell us the neighborhood, but Young would not relent. “I plead the fifth on the grounds that it may be incriminating,” he said. “But an amazing opportunity presented itself, and we would be crazy not to take it.”
“What’s the two things they tell you are healthiest to eat? Chicken and fish . . . You know what you should do? Combine them. Eat a penguin.” –Dave Attell (b. 1965), American comedian
New Restaurant Alert
Jovanis Bouargoub calls the menu at La Méditerranée (941 W. Randolph St.; 312-243-1818), his new 99-seat spot in the old Thai Aroma space, a mix of “traditional Italian and French.” Dishes lean to straight-up options such as veal marsala ($20), pastas ($8 to $13), and steak au cabernet, a grilled 14-ounce New York strip with shallot cabernet sauce ($28). Bouragoub attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, but he hired Robert Ross, a former business consultant, as his chef. “I hate the kitchen,” explains Bouargoub. “It’s too hot and too complicated. Robert is an old friend of mine who is obsessed with cooking. He is in his late 60s, but cooking makes him younger.”
During our interview with the Tunisian-born, Parisian-reared Bouargoub, he also unleashed this gem about service: “You can’t talk to the customer like a friend. He is not your friend. He came here to enjoy a meal. If the customer doesn’t talk to you, you don’t talk to him except to help him.” Thoughts, anyone?
He Said It
“Kendal looks at it as an art. He’s not driven by money. That’s what we are trying to sell this place as. When you walk in, you will see a lot of art. Not art pieces. This place will look like one big art piece. We’re talking waterfall; the bar is going to be made in decorative concrete. The space was an art gallery and we are trying to keep its integrity. We’re trying to do something different for the neighborhood by bringing a downtown lounge with a neighborhood-friendly price tag.” –Paolo Acuña, the Philippine-born owner of Cuna (1113 W. Belmont Ave.; 312-224-8588), on his consulting chef, Kendal Duque (the talented guy from Sepia, and their eclectic 200-seat small-plates room coming in early November
After much hype, Patricio and Alfredo Sandoval opened Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9555), their New York taco juggernaut, a tortilla chip’s throw from the corner of Bayless and Bayless (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, Xoco). The glitzy room’s wild murals, big horseshoe booths, and gold-faceted lights seemed less exciting when the menu arrived. Salsas, guacamoles, and seviches read like a buy-one, get-one-free sale (one guacamole $8, two $10, three $12). Then there are the taquizas annoyingly described as “¼ kilo”—like we know what ¼ of a kilo is. The super spicy salsa was barely spicy and mole poblano guac was nothing special. Among tacos, braised carnitas hit the mark but the tasteless shrimp with mundane avocado wedges made no sense. Our verdict: Mercadito screams hot spot, but the menu is too much work for not enough payoff.
Hit the Ground Cooking
“My last day at The [French] Laundry was a Thursday night,” says Patrick Fahy, the new pastry chef at Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708). I flew out the same night and I flew into Chicago Friday morning and started work that very day.” The North Side native is already making waves at his post with his walnut cake with NY674 apples. “These apples were invented in New York and they don’t oxidize as easily [as other apples],” Fahy says. “They’re on the plate in different forms. Some are raw; some are cooked. I use the sous vide machine to take all the air out of one of the apples, then partially cook it so it has good bite, but the caramel I put in there soaks into it. I serve it with fromage blanc ice cream, candied walnuts, and a brown butter gastrique sauce.”
Free Things to Do
- Sample beer from eight Midwestern microbreweries at The Plaza at Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-521-7275), during the October 3rd Midwest Microfest from noon to 7 p.m.
- Get a complimentary small frozen yogurt in the South Loop on October 1st between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to celebrate the opening of a Yogen Früz (333 S. State St.; 312-431-1150).
- Learn to make cocktails with fresh fruit and Skyy Vodka at Cityscape Bar (Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, 15th floor, 350 W. Mart Center Dr.; 312-836-5000) on October 1st and October 8th from 5 to 7 p.m. Then: Drink cocktails.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
From October 1st through October 4th, Blind Faith Café (525 Dempster St., Evanston; 847-328-6875) celebrates its 30th anniversary by allowing guests to choose the price of their dinner entrées. . . . Check this list to find out which area restaurants offer you the option of contributing an extra dollar (or more) to your bill for breast cancer research throughout October. . . . Red Brick (1938 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-904-8540), a BYO (for now) Mediterranean bar and grill that makes almost everything in-house, opened earlier this month in Lake View. . . . Congratulations to Goose Island, which won its usual medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival last week in Denver. . . . The Atrium Wine Bar, the 50-seat seasonal restaurant opening in Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St.; 312-410-7301) in October, has named Corey Grupe (Convito Italiano) its chef. “We’ll focus on the small plates menu with cheese and charcuterie to mirror the store,” says Laura Nash, the marketing director. “Basically all components of the meal will be available for purchase in the store.”