C Chicago—the River North seafood spot from David Flom and Matt Moore of Chicago Cut fame—isn’t just changing its name to Ocean Cut (20 W. Kinzie St., River North, 312-280-8882) starting May 12. It’s changing its identity. New executive chef Dirk Flanigan (The Gage, Henri) says he has a boatload of new ideas to showcase, including seafood inspired by his childhood, more steaks, as well as an occasional fully loaded lobster Bloody Mary. We asked him to tell us more about the coming updates.
You grew up near the Gulf Coast, correct? How will that affect the menu?
Growing up in Florida, I have memories of going crabbing with my dad. He always made this brandy mustard. Stone crabs are a big deal down there, but the season is limited. So we’re going to do some Jonah crab claws with a brandy mustard that’s similar to what my father used to make. But I’m adding a little bit of Korean chili to it and some fermented chili paste for a bit of funk in the background. And then a small amount of apples pickled with lemon and turmeric to brighten the dish.
How are you going to source your seafood?
I will be working with [many of the same] seafood purveyors that I worked with since 1988 when I was at La Tour. I deal with people all over the world—fishermen off both coasts as well as Florida and Texas in addition to European fisherman. [But we will also source locally] and use Door County whitefish and Lake Superior pike.
What’s your approach to pricing?
The fish are not priced by the pound. They are priced appropriately, competitively for River North. We will have a big seafood wall and we can prepare it salt crusted or simply on the grill.
Are you remodeling the space?
Not remodeling. We’re making it feel more casual. When I walk in, I feel like I’m on a cruise ship—even though I’ve never been on a cruise ship. [Let’s put it this way]: The design is what I imagine a cruise ship [looks like].
Any other big changes you have planned?
I will have three steak offerings on the menu. And I want to get lunch hopping in here. I’m working on a lobster burger as well as fish and chips. I think those are obvious fits. There will also be a raw bar and grilled items for those who want to eat lighter during the day. I want to provide people the option of enjoying a power lunch without needing a nap afterward.
That’s kind of the approach. I want to take people somewhere and I want them to have good time. If I were a brunch guy, I would want to eat light at brunch. So my Bloody Mary will have lobster and shrimp and gochujang (fermented chilies). I think serious cuisine can be fun.