A Picture of Health
“I know that we are planning on doing something again,” says Erwin Drechsler, who closed his namesake Lake View restaurant Erwin on July 1 after a 19-year run. He and his wife, Cathy, took some time off and reassessed their lives—taking into account the outpouring of Erwin-love in the month after they announced the closing—and they have decided to open a refocused restaurant, possibly in the old Erwin space. Nutrition will motivate the cuisine. Erwin cites omega-3 oils in fish, antioxidants in acaí berries, and sleep aids in potatoes as examples of the food knowledge and health benefits he wants to promote, although he mentioned the potatoes as a theoretical example. “We are not going to put that on the menu,” he jokes. “We don’t want to put people to sleep in the restaurant.” That gives us another idea for our list of restaurants to open someday: a lunch place with cots. We’ll call it Napkins.
Tip of the Iceberg
Crain’s reported that Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has leased the former location of Tilli’s at 1952 North Halsted Street. Lettuce’s top banana, Rich Melman, confirms the deal and says the company plans two restaurants for the space. Although he’s not ready to publish the names or concepts, he divulges that Jeff Mahin, who developed Do-Rite Donuts (along with Francis Brennan) as well as Lettuce’s successful Southern California pizzeria Stella Rossa, will participate. “I found him at L2O,” Melman says of Mahin. “Laurent Gras had hired him. A 28-year-old kid who is a genius. He’s been at The Fat Duck [in Berkshire, England] and Nobu [in New York]. He is like one of these genius math and science kids.” Adding those two restaurants to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, L2O, R.J. Grunts, and Mon Ami Gabi, Lincoln Park will have more Lettuce than a cheap hoagie.
“Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity.” —Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator
Raw, Raw, Sis Boom Bah
Shin Thompson, who grew Bonsoirée out of an underground-dining series, plans to open an as-yet-unnamed spot at 952 West Lake Street with Ryan O’Donnell (Rustic House, Gemini Bistro), the obverse of the coin with Beverly Kim and her husband, John Clark, taking over Bonsoirée later this month. The West Loop restaurant will include an eight-seat sashimi bar—no rice—that also serves oysters. “In the city of Chicago I don’t think there is any sashimi-only bar—that doesn’t serve sushi,” O’Donnell says. Thompson’s Japanese-influenced contemporary menu will import some famous dishes from Bonsoirée, including the mosaic carpaccio of white tuna, king salmon, and kona kampachi, as well as the scallop-crab motoyaki, according to Eater. Thompson expects to fly in fish from Japan’s legendary Tsukiji Fish Market. The February target opening depends on the progress of construction and inspections in the 120-seat, vanilla-box location—a raw space now, a raw bar soon.
Red Violet (121 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-0222), an upscale Chinese restaurant that opened in February, brought in Gene Kato (former chef/owner of Japonais, chef/owner of the forthcoming Sumi Robata Bar) to rethink the tepidly reviewed food. (We first heard about the partnership on Eater.) Kato described some dishes from the revamped menu, which he says is 85 to 90 percent new:
- Poached scallop salad with Chinese black vinegar–Sichuan peppercorn dressing. “It’s poached diver scallops with zucchini that are poached in Chinese aromatics,” Kato says.
- Whole loup de mer, dusted with cornstarch and flash-fried, served with garlic scapes, pea shoots, and shimeji mushrooms. “We fry the whole skeleton really crispy so you can eat the skeleton if you want,” Kato says.
- Peking duck, a holdover from the original menu. “[It’s a] kind of fusion between my recipe and chef Frankie [Fong]’s recipe,” Kato says. A meatier duck appeals to American palates, but the dish keeps the traditional crispy skin as well.
- White chocolate–lychee filled doughnuts, served alongside a lychee-infused black-tea semifreddo.
The new Red Violet menu debuted in mid-July, and Kato currently estimates that Sumi Robata Bar will open in October.
Updated Review: Anteprima
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Anteprima maintained its two-star rating in the August issue, on newsstands now.
Anteprima (5316 N. Clark St., 773-506-9990). Italian.
$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
A big step up from most trattorias, this noisy neighborhood spot explores the rustic richness of regional Italian ingredients and styles. For maximum grazing fun, order the plate of three hearty salumi and the assortment of eight brightly flavored antipasti, including fregola and sorrel with Calabrian chilies and lemon vinaigrette. Bucatini with shaved bottarga (cured fish roe), pea tendrils, and ahi tuna crudo elevates pasta above the usual, while wood-grilled bison flank steak with salsa verde and wheat berries will gratify the most ardent carnivore. Silky lemon panna cotta and affordable Italian wines provide perfect complements to the meal.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Tom Eckert, the opening chef of Café 103 in Beverly, plans to open Embers Smoke & Fire (122 S. York St., Elmhurst, 630-834-5700) in downtown Elmhurst. He’s taking over the space that currently holds Charlie’s Bar and Grill, which will close because of the departure of the eponymous Charlie. “[Embers’] menu is arranged not by appetizer, entrée, and desserts, but by fire and smoke,” Eckert says, explaining that wood-grilled and smoked foods predominate. For example, the fire section includes a brined, spice-rubbed chicken that roasts on the wood fire and comes with mashed potatoes and a Parmigiano-Reggiano broth with white wine, garlic, and shallots. Smoked items include the expected beef brisket and ribs, but also trout and an entrée potato, pre-roasted then smoked and served with brisket, pulled pork, Renard’s cheddar, onion strings, and barbecue sauce. Cinnamon-sugar pie crust cookies made from Eckert’s grandmother’s recipe will appear on the dessert menu. Hard to believe it’s been only a few years since “smoking section” referred to seating rather than the menu.
- Pollack joins the fiesta at Antique Taco.
- A more-than-worthy cause with drinks and snacks to boot.
- Pollack gets down and dirty at Ina’s lobster dinner.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
1. Satisfy wee-hours munchies at Red Door (2118 N. Damen Ave., 773-697-7721), which launches a late-night tamale special tomorrow. Every Thursday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., night owls can swoop in on two varieties of Troy Graves’s house-made creations in flavors such as buffalo chicken, duck à l’orange, and corned beef and cabbage for $3 a pop.
2. Catch up to tomato season at 2Sparrows (553 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-234-2320), where, on Friday at 7 p.m., Gregory Ellis will whip up a five-course tasting menu highlighting the lycopene-laden fruit—yes, fruit—with dishes such as gazpacho, pork tenderloin with roasted tomato risotto, and tomato-peach mochi. The meal costs $50, and reservations are required.
3. Bid “aloha” (in this case, the “goodbye” version) to your preconceptions of Irish pubs at the pig roast luau hosted by Mahoney’s Pub & Grille (551 N. Ogden Ave., 312-733-2121) on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. (The roast pig will be served at 7 p.m.) The all-you-can-eat swine feast costs $11.95, plus $5 per rum cocktail. Grass skirts and leis complimentary.
- Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf (218 W. Kinzie St., 312-624-8154), the beefery from the gilt-touched restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff, soft-opened Monday.
- Falafill (1053 Lake St., Oak Park, 708-383-6900), home to the DIY mezza bar, opened its first suburban location.
- Masaki Sushi (Hilton Chicago/Magnificent Mile, 990 N. Mies Van Der Rohe Way, 312-280-9100), a diminutive restaurant from the owners of Pelago, rolls out the welcome mat (and the maki) tomorrow.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
According to Crain’s, Paul Kahan will open a restaurant in Rush Street’s Sutton Place Hotel, replacing Whiskey Bar & Grill. . . . We learned from Grub Street that the esteemed Chinatown dim sum purveyor Shui Wah has closed. . . . Little Goat, Stephanie Izard and Boka Restaurant Group’s diner project (which we discussed with her in March 2011), is now slated to open in October. . . . The chocolatier Katherine Anne Confections will convert its production facility at 2745 West Armitage Avenue into an artisanal sweetshop and café and aims to open to the public in mid-September. . . . Myron & Phil (3900 W. Devon Ave., Lincolnwood, 847-677-6663) will undergo a face-lift and add gourmet hamburgers, dinner salads, and pit-smoked barbecue to its classic steak-house menu of dishes such as skirt steak with burnt onions. “We will reinvent ourselves without losing who we are,” says Mark Freedman, a second-generation owner. Case in point: The complimentary chopped liver will remain. Freedman also plans to adapt (read: lower) menu prices to reflect the state of the economy. . . . Results from Zagat’s 2012/2013 Chicago restaurants survey went live this week. Alinea nabbed first place for both Top Food and Most Popular.