Here’s an excerpt from our conversation with Dominique Tougne about his upcoming opening in Lincoln Park:
Dish: What kind of restaurant are you working on?
Dominique Tougne: A unique French bistro.
D: What is going to make it unique?
Appropriately for that answer, the restaurant is called Chez Moi (2100 N. Halsted St.; 773-871-2100), and it’s occupying the space that was Café Bernard until it closed for renovations recently. Tougne, who cooked at Bistro 110 from 1996 until it turned into Bar Toma last year, bought the business from Bernard Le Coq, who has been spending a lot of time in France and is becoming a farmer, Tougne says. The current remodeling project will refresh the space, making cosmetic changes and introducing new tables and some new equipment. He hopes to open in early May.
For the menu, Tougne plans French bistro dishes that aren’t found at every French bistro, such as an appetizer-size eel stew called matelote d’anguilles (“It’s kind of different, so it’s just a smaller portion,” Tougne says) and pigs’ feet that are cooked, deboned, and cooked again with garlic, parsley, and veal demi-glace, then served with foie gras, caul fat, and savoy cabbage. He also plans to serve what he says is a new bread from the French Pastry School called la fournette.
Except for the bread, the uncommon dishes really do reflect Tougne himself—they were served at his grandmother’s restaurant in Bordeaux. Tougne, however, comes from Alsace, a region known for porky dishes like the pigs’ feet. “I like to say I am the Obélix of the cooking world because I fell in good wine and in good food, since I was from Alsace,” he says, referring to the French comic-book character who fell into a magic potion that gave him superstrength. In the pork-organs-beer times we live in, being an Alsatian chef really is like having superstrength. Or at least an early tolerance for superstrong flavors.