5 Questions for Elizabeth Dahl, the new pastry chef at Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.; 312-337-6070)
D: You’ve been the pastry chef at Naha for a while now. Why did you leave?
ED: I heard that Giuseppe [Tentori] was hiring. I had dinner with my husband one Sunday night at Boka and we loved his food and I thought: Why not? All of us always keep our eyes and ears open for new opportunities for growth.
D: You worked with your husband at Naha, didn’t you?
ED: I had come on as my husband’s assistant. We planned our wedding while working there. It was definitely very hard to leave. But for the first time, I can work with my own style. [Editors’ note: Elizabeth’s husband, Tim Dahl, is now the executive pastry chef at Blackbird.]
D: What is your style?
ED: I have some savory things that I may not have done at Naha.
D: Like what?
ED: A sweet corn flan with blackberries, a little crème fraîche, some cilantro, and smoked paprika.
D: What was your inspiration for a corn dessert?
ED: The elotes that they sell on the street. I just love those. They smear mayo, lime, and Parmesan and sprinkle them with smoked paprika. That kind of does it for me.
Separate but Equal
“I’ve become the kosher iron chef, so to speak,” says Chris Turano, chef of MetroKlub (733 W. Madison St.; 312-602-2104), a brand-new upscale kosher lunch spot inside the Crowne Plaza. Turano, the chef at Dine (also in the Crowne Plaza), had no experience with kosher dietary laws when the hotel owner, David Friedman, announced the project. But now, after working with a rabbi in MetroKlub’s completely separate kitchen, Turano knows the drill: kosher certified foods and no mixing of meat and dairy. In fact, it was Turano who came up with the recipe for turtle cheesecake made with a vegan cream cheese–style product for dessert after a meat entrée. He finds the whole experience very exciting, he says “making sure that everything is in cohesion. Who else can say they did that? We have a hand-washing station in the dining room and 28 seats in there. And it’s already booked solid for lunch tomorrow.”
As the Stomach Churns
More first impressions from the new-restaurant front:
Pollack popped into Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St.; 773-769-9700) to get an early read on the place. She raved that the chilled-tomato, red-pepper, and cucumber soup was a party in her mouth, especially on a hot summer night, while the jalapeño gnocchi with asparagus, peas, and roasted-pepper purée scored a one-two punch with its tender gnocchi and fresh veggies awash in a dynamite sauce. She was, however, less than impressed with Otom (951 W. Fulton Market; 312-491-5804), where the chef seems to be going for fancified comfort food. Appetizers were a mixed bag: The arugula salad with bresaola, apples, and pine nuts rocked but the grilled-cheese flight flopped (the cheeses were barely soft, let alone melted, and the breads were greasy). As for the entrées, from a soupy mac-and-cheese to a chewy sirloin, they smacked of amateur night-even for a new place.
Linda Ellis spent the past three summers learning how to make traditional Dutch pancakes at Le Soleil, a small family-owned spot in Amsterdam. But this summer, Ellis stayed home to work on Pannenkoeken Café (4757 N. Western Ave.; 773-769-8800), which she plans to open at the end of August. “Dutch pancakes are open-faced, thicker than crêpes, 11 inches in diameter, and they have a variety of toppings,” says Gina Salgado, Ellis’s daughter and partner. Salgado predicts the chocolate-banana pancake, drizzled with imported chocolate syrup, topped with mounds of whipped cream, and sprinkled with cocoa powder and hazelnuts will be the big hit. “That’s one large pancake for $7.95. I think it’s enough even for the American appetite.”
“A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.” –James Beard (1903-85), cookbook author, television and radio personality, and founder of The James Beard Cooking School
Keep On Truckin’
It’s 2 a.m. on Saturday night and you’ve been partying in River North. You really want something to eat before you head for home but finding something quick, cheap, and decent seems a daunting task. Try this: Stroll over to the late-night pizza truck parked in front of Bella Rosa (23 W. Hubbard St.; 312-527-2100). You can’t miss it. It’s got Bella Rosa’s name, number, address, and logo painted on both sides. For four bucks, a slice of cheese, pepperoni, or sausage pizza can be yours within a matter of minutes. (Bella Rosa’s pizza truck is open on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.)
Things to Do
1. Celebrate ten years of Cafe Matou (1846 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-384-8911) with a $10 dessert-and-wine pairing offered through September.
2. Read this: I’ll have the fried felon. And throw in a side of mashed potatoes.
3. Sip on a Brady Bunch Punch-light and dark rums with almond schnapps, triple sec, and fruit juices-and enjoy a night of seventies and eighties TV nostalgia at the new Reagle Beagle (160 E. Grand Ave.; 312-755-9645). Opens tomorrow night.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Birthday greetings to the rib joint Twin Anchors (1655 N. Sedgwick St.; 312-266-1616), celebrating 75 years in Old Town. . . . Stephanie Izard is closing her popular Bucktown Mediterranean spot Scylla (1952 N. Damen Ave.; 773-227-2995) on August 25th, but it looks as though Bon Appétit got the news a little late-the September issue profiles Scylla as one of the 12 best small restaurants in the country. . . . Congrats to Go Roma (www.goroma.net for restaurant locations), the local Italian chain restaurant group, for receiving Nation’s Restaurant News’ Hot Concepts! award. . . . Much to the chagrin of Streeterville loyalists, Original World Famous Gino’s Pizza shuttered its historic spot at 930 North Rush Street two summers ago. The beloved pizza parlor finally resurfaced mid-June in Lincoln Park (1417 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-348-9463), but vows to reopen in its original location in about a year. . . . Extra Virgin (741 W. Randolph St.) closed two weeks ago. Did anyone notice?