John Peters (the former chef at Powerhouse) is in talks with Grant Achatz, his boss at Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110), to do a restaurant project together. “Our intention is to open something else in the style of Alinea,” says Peters, who goes with Achatz back to the Trio days. “Not another heavy-hitter restaurant but something in the style of Alinea. We are kind of in limbo with the economy, obviously, but hopefully come February, we will have time to focus on what we’ve talked about. Whatever it is that they [Achatz and Nick Kokonas, a partner at Alinea] do, they generally find a way to do it the right way.”
Himalaya Mountain High
Bala Ghimire, owner of the popular Indian/Nepalese Curry Hut Restaurant (410 Sheridan Rd., Highwood; 847-432-2889) has opened the Indian/Nepalese Chicago Curry House (899 S. Plymouth Ct.; 312-362-9999) in the South Loop. “This is the first Nepalese restaurant in the city,” Ghimire says. “It is very interesting food, so people need to be exposed to it in the South Loop.” For beginners, he recommends jhane ko dal, yellow lentils cooked with onion, ginger, and garlic in a Nepalese wok; or khasi ko massu, goat meat cooked with Nepalese herbs and spices. Or just a good old-fashioned Indian lunch buffet ($11), which includes 20 homemade breads hot from the tandoor.
We Love a Parade
“I am doing a recipe—with lamb—that is 80 years old,” says Gianni Zonca, the Torino-born chef of Pilsen’s upcoming Ristorante Al Teatro (1227 W. 18th St.; 312-784-9100). “The recipe is called costolette di agnello, which is four chops in a crust, made with old-style rosemary and thyme and a glass of Barolo from Piemonte.” Al Teatro, slated to open by the end of January in the neighborhood’s historic Thalia Hall, will also boast 20 pizzas, 24 gelato flavors (the owner is Dominick Geraci of Wicker Park’s Caffé Gelato), and some kind of pizza-like invention of Zonca’s called panadina that we don’t entirely understand. “It’s a parade of flavors that you are going to fall in love with right away,” he says, cryptically.
“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), American philosopher
He Said It
“We do appetizers like Reuben hush puppies with house-made Thousand Island dressing, and homemade breadsticks with either hummus or hot bacon blue cheese dip. Sriracha wings. Mom’s spinach salad with a dressing my mother made up. Entrées of pulled pork and burgers and tequila-marinated chicken sandwiches. We will have our own spicy fries to go with those.” –Rodger Campbell, a partner (along with Denise Richards) at Your Kitchen (4009 N. Albany St.; 773-463-7470), a takeout spot in Albany Park that had its soft opening on January 6th
Nothing Says “Fun” Like Spicy Red Snapper
Sanook (2845 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-463-7299), a two-month-old Thai/sushi BYO whose name means “fun” in Thai, aims to bring a little glamour to Old Irving Park. “There are not a lot of trendy lounges in this area,” says Tobie Traisub, the general manager of the family-run spot. (His father, Vorachai, is the owner; his brother Benjamin, the sushi chef.) “We wanted a name that would create of feeling of middle-class prices with high-class ambiance.” The colorful 74-seat restaurant’s menu includes signature makis such as the “Big Ben”—a beast of soft-shell crab, shrimp tempura, unagi, avocado, cucumber, masago, wasabi mayo, tempura crunch, and unagi sauce ($15)—and deep-fried red snapper in a spicy homemade sauce ($9.50). And when they say “spicy” they mean it: “We make everything to Thai standards,” says Traisub. “When you get hot you get Thai hot—not American hot.”
Luck, Be a Zaidi Tonight
Zaidi’s (Rte. 59 and 83rd St., 1975 Springbrook Square Dr., Naperville; 630-355-4400), a 190-seat Japanese/Latino–infused spot, is nothing if not ambitious. “We basically combine those two cuisines, from spices to fruits, and just bring a phenomenal exotic taste,” says Zaidi Syed, the owner, a former GM at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Naperville. “For example, the fried calamari with Japanese sea salt and chipotle aïoli. And one of my famous appetizers is duck tacos with pulled duck meat, avocado salsa, and kimchi slaw.” The menu is heavy on sushi, steaks, and seafood, and the offbeat two-month-old restaurant is chock-a-block with selling points: Kobe beef sliders; towers of mini doughnuts; live jazz four nights a week; pillars lit from within by “cyclone-type fires.”
“It’s named for my five-month-old daughter. She’s a twin. Her sister’s name is Sophia. When Sophia realizes that Abigail has a restaurant named after her . . . I don’t believe that a pony is going to suffice.” –Michael Paulsen, the chef-partner of Abigail’s (493 Roger Williams, Highland Park), a 60-seat farm-to-plate American bistro opening near Ravinia Park this spring
Cheap Things to Do
- Eat $5 burgers on Tuesday nights or play bingo for wine-related prizes on Sunday nights at Bin Wine Cafe (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-486-2233)
- Get a free burrito at the new Chipotle (2743 N. Elston Ave.; 773-661-0250) on January 8th any time between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Eat a homemade winter soup in a tin can with a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich for $11 at David Burke’s Primehouse (The James, 616 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000).
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Daniel Kelly (D. Kelly, Tramonto’s Steakhouse) told us that Osteria di Tramonto (601 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling; 847-777-6570) will most likely close and change its name in the near future. . . . Jerry Kleiner’s latest plan involves a partnership with Kerasotes Theaters, which plans to open a theatre in the South Loop next to Target (Clark and Roosevelt) in October 2009. “You will be able to have food and cocktails in two of the theatres,” says Kleiner. “And we are designing the whole restaurant/bar area for them.” . . . To celebrate the late-March release of their ¡Salpicón! Cookbook! (Chronicle), Priscila and Vince Satkoff snagged 500 copies and will host a signing from 3 to 5 p.m. on January 11th at their reliable Old Town Mexican restaurant (1252 N. Wells St.; 312-988-7811).