Just over a year after hanging it up at his Michelin-starred, gluten-free restaurant Senza, Noah Sandoval is back at it later this month, with plans to open a tasting menu restaurant called Oriole (in honor of the Major League baseball team his wife, Cara, backs) on March 10, with reservations now available online. Together with pastry chef Genie Kwon (GT Fish and Oyster, Boka) the Sandovals will launch the 28-seater at 661 W. Walnut St. in the West Loop. And yes, there will be gluten.
Noah’s new American cuisine will cover many bases in its 15 to 18 courses but will specifically highlight seafood in dishes such as sea urchin with toasted rice and smoked soy. He developed the food with drink accompaniments in mind, and there will be two pairing options: a traditional wine pairing and a mixed selection featuring cocktails, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages—“what we think you should drink with the courses,” according to Noah.
Noah, who logged time in the Spring and Schwa kitchens before opening Senza, is clearly amped. “I finally think I can do something that is my own,” he says. “It took a long time [to get to this point], but Cara is ready to lead the front-of-the-house team and Genie is the best [pastry chef] in the business.”
Speaking of those desserts, Noah says all of Kwon’s creations are delectable (he’s tried 10 of them in one sitting), and notes that she has a specific knack for pairing chocolate and cardamom. (You can sample the cardamom portion from Oriole’s opening menu, in an almond croissant that also features rose and acacia honey.)
It’s clear that this is a mutual admiration society. “A friend of mine worked at Senza, and Noah, Cara, and I became part of the same social circle,” says Kwon. “I tried Noah’s tasting menu [at Senza] and it was one of the best meals I ever had,” she concludes.
This culinarily gifted posse plans to strike a balance between fine-dining and laid-back at Oriole. White tablecloths will be present, but Sandoval stresses that snootiness will not. “No pretension or affect,” he vows. “The atmosphere will play into having fun, not feel stuffy,” Kwon promises. “When we eat out at fancy restaurants, we all just want to be comfortable.”