BTW, It’s Slang for “Butter”
Zebda (4344 N. Elston Ave.; 773-545-7000), a new Mediterranean-influenced takeout deli/caterer from Katie Garcia (Mundial Cocina Mestiza) and Mohammed Djeddour (Tassili), opened last week. “We’re doing really interesting sandwiches and soups and things to go,” says Garcia, who met Djeddour working at the Ritz-Carlton years ago. “Trying to keep ethnic but modern.” For example, Garcia and Djeddour make their own semene, a flour-and-cornmeal-based Algerian bread typically eaten for breakfast with honey. “Imagine a crêpe that was pressed down with five crêpes,” says Garcia. “Very light and buttery. The method is almost like a strudel dough. We drizzle it with melted butter, roll it paper-thin, fold it, and then lightly fry it. We’re using it as an edible plate for salads and sandwiches. It’s hard for me not to eat them every day.”
“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.” –Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church
A Conversation with Todd Stein
Stein, 37, is the chef of Cibo Matto (201 N. State St.; 312-467-0200), a promising 145-seat Italian restaurant in The Wit Hotel, opening July 7th.
D: Is it true that you’re opening two weeks ahead of schedule?
TS: Yes. That never happens. We are ready. I’m bored. I’m antsy.
D: What will the menu be like?
TS: The food is similar to my cooking when I was at MK but with a more Italian twist. I’m doing a traditional carbonara with bucatini pasta, which will arrive with the duck egg yolk on top, so you can mix it in yourself. . . . We’re doing roasted sea scallops with celery root purée, trumpet mushrooms, and black truffle vinaigrette.
D: We hear the room is quite striking.
TS: It’s spectacular. All of our tables are made out of ambrosia maple, the kitchen is open, and there’s a 40-foot-long fresco down the center of the ceiling done by an artist named Todd Murphy. The piece is called “Crazy Feast,” and it’s a Bacchanalia-esque series of photographs layered on each other.
D: How about the wine program?
TS: Our wine tower sits in the middle of the dining room and it holds about 2,000 bottles. Josh Kaplan, who was the GM at MK, is handling all of that and it’s going to be fantastic.
D: How is Roof doing?
TS: Above and beyond our expectations. It’s insane. We are packed every single night. With no reservations.
A Breeze Blows in from the East
Angin Mamiri (2739 W. Touhy Ave.; 773-262-6646), a new Indonesian restaurant, recently endeared itself to its West Rogers Park neighbors by taking them perkedel (corn fritters) and lumpia (spring rolls). The menu of the charming new 28-seat BYO also includes siomay bandung (cabbage, tofu, and potatoes stuffed with fish paste and topped with peanut sauce), martabak telor (scrambled eggs, ground beef, and green onions in a pan-fried flour wrap), and ayam opor (a lemongrass chicken curry in coconut milk). Even the name has a nice ring to it. “I can’t translate it perfectly in English,” says Katrina Tulas, a waitress and niece of the owner, Muhammad Rukli. “It kind of means ‘the arrival of a light breeze.’”
He Said It
“We sell 60 varieties of gourmet pizza. Everything from prosciutto di Parma to arugula to lump crabmeat to cremini mushrooms to Brazilian pizzas. We have California club, barbecue pizza, Philadelphia pizza. Hard-boiled eggs, codfish, sardella. Things like sweet sausage with rapini and mozzarella di bufala. I think we have 94 different toppings. . . . And we also sell slices. They are big slices. You-can-fold-them-in-your-hand type slices.” –Brad Kollar, partner at Fogo To Go (926 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-880-8052), a tiny new brick-oven BYO pizzeria (and char-broiler of Perdue chickens) that opened last week in Lake View. Kollar describes the pizza crust as “Brooklyn-style.” But he’s from Philadelphia.
While this Grocery Bistro mess plays out, Andre Christopher, the former chef, is spending his time in the kitchen of Little Bucharest Bistro (3661 N. Elston Ave.; 773-604-8500). The re-creation of Branko Podrumedic’s popular spot that closed four years ago will open with its own beer garden next week. “People still talk about Little Bucharest and crazy Branko and his holy water [a Romanian plum brandy],” says Podrumedic. “Christopher is finishing the menu and completely redesigning the place.” The new lineup boasts traditional Romanian food, but also draws from Germany, Poland, and Serbia—and includes some contemporary spins, such as sashimi-style gravlax with fried egg tempura, caper vinaigrette, red onion syrup, and a dill leaf.
Hotter the Better
Who opens a soup shop in the middle of summer? Dino Agudo, a former assistant state’s attorney (and caterer), that’s who. He just unveiled Bucktown Soup Cafe (1840 N. Damen Ave.; 773-904-8364), a counter-service spot staffed by cooking school students, and the nonstop foot traffic in Bucktown should serve the place well—regardless of season. “Turnout was very, very good,” says Agudo of his opening day (June 22nd). “Especially being the hottest day so far this year.” Nine soups are available daily (tortilla chicken, gumbo), and the roster rotates weekly (gazpacho soon). A large lobster bisque is $7 and it comes with a huge slice of Red Hen multigrain bread encrusted in sunflower seeds.
Things to Do
- Go to Il Mulino Chicago (1150 N. Dearborn St.; 312-440-8888) on Thursday between 5 and 7 p.m. for its Cheeky Chicago Happy Hour on the outdoor patio: two St. Germain cocktails, endless hors d’oeuvres and pastas, plus other “surprise treats,” for just $10.
- Skip Taste of Chicago and check out Taste of Le Colonial (937 N. Rush St.; 312-255-0088) June 26th through July 5th, when the luxurious Vietnamese spot offers tasting portions of its dishes for $10 each.
- Get regular with the ultimate bathroom book, The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast (Sourcebooks, Inc.), a new cookbook by a former Chicago Tribune Magazine writer, Danielle Svetcov.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
In August, Original Rainbow Cone (9233 S. Western Ave.; 773-238-7075), an 83-year-old ice cream stand in Beverly, plans to open a storefront shop at 177 North State Street, which it will share with a new Halsted Street Deli. . . . Signspotting: Edith’s Place, a Persian restaurant coming at Mt. Prospect Plaza on the northeast corner of Rand and Central Roads. . . . The Terrace at Trump, an outdoor dining spot on the 16th floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago (401 N. Wabash Ave.), opens on June 25th. Go Saturday night and you can sip a prosecco while you watch the fireworks at Navy Pier. . . . One of these is slated to open in Schaumburg this fall. . . . Happy tenth anniversary to Tru (676 N. St. Clair St.; 312-202-0001), which celebrates the occasion with a blowout ten-course, $295 dinner on June 28th, featuring great guest chefs such as Jose Andrés (Jaleo in Washington, D.C.), Michael Symon (Lola and Lolita in Cleveland), and Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s in Miami). Call 312-202-0615, ext. 230, for reservations.