The prime location inside the Hotel Monaco has been vacant since last year, when South Water Kitchen closed last year after a 15-year run. Now a newcomer, Fisk & Co. (225 N. Wabash, Loop) is set to bring a menu of Belgian treats to the space.
At Fisk & Co., the menu is dominated by a wide variety of mussels and fried potatoes. Diners can choose from mussels made with tomatoes and saffron, beer and chile, chorizo and cilantro, or thai curry, and it’s practically mandatory to pair them with frites, which are brined in salt and vinegar before frying to make them extra crispy. Sauces include black garlic ketchup and green peppercorn aioli.
Chef Austin Fausett, a newcomer to the Chicago scene, is running the kitchen. He’s done stints in San Francisco, New York and Vienna, and his last gig was as executive chef of the acclaimed Proof in Washington D.C. He’s paying a lot of attention to the seafood at Fisk & Co. (appropriately, given the central place it occupies on the menu). For example, depending on the flavor profile, guests will actually get different kinds of mussels in order to best show off the dish. For the Thai curry mussels (Fausett’s favorite), the restaurant is serving bivalves from Acadia Aqua Farms in Maine. “They’re larger than Prince Edward Island mussels, and they’re meaty and delicious,” he says.
Don’t get too wrapped up in the many mussel and fry combos (30 in all!), because there are a lot of other treats on this menu: In addition to more traditional housemade charcuterie, Fausett has created a selection of fish charcuterie. These include what Fausett thinks is a standout: monkfish liver mousse. “Most people might be intimidated by monkfish liver mousse, but it’s the foie gras of the sea,” he says.
Using seafood in unexpected ways runs throughout the menu; Fausett also created an octopus Bolognese, after a lot of experimentation about how to create the perfect ground octopus. It’s served with squid ink pasta and cured egg yolk. If you want a hearty meal to get you through the rainy spring, try the pierogi (made from Fausett’s grandma’s recipe) filled with cabbage and horseradish and serve on top of a beer-beef stew. “It’s central to our concept—you’re eating short ribs braised in beer, and cabbage and pierogi and drinking a Belgian style ale,” he says. “You should be right at home.” Fisk and Co. will open in early April.