Praise the Gourd
Squashing rumors that his coming-this-spring venture would be called Roast, chef Shin Thompson revealed (first to Time Out Chicago) that the West Loop project with Ryan O’Donnell (Gemini Bistro, Rustic House) would be christened Kabocha (952 W. Lake St., no phone yet). Like the now-closed Bonsoirée, where Thompson made his reputation, Kabocha will serve a Japanese-influenced menu, including the Bonsoirée fixtures Duck Duck Goose (duck breast, duck leg confit, and goose foie gras with fig jam), scallop motoyaki, and, eventually, the bento box. Unlike the tasting-menu-only Bonsoirée, Kabocha will sell dishes à la carte, with a raw bar, sashimi, and plates in small ($7–$18), medium ($10–$20), and large ($18–$35) sizes. However, O’Donnell says, a nine- to eleven-course tasting menu will be served, kaiseki-style (like the Kyoto menu at Next), at two seats where customers can look through a one-way mirror into the kitchen. Bonsoirée also earned a reputation for cheekiness, plating a mixed-fish carpaccio on top of the consumer advisory on raw foods and once serving a bonus course with a Sichuan peppercorn flower, which caused intense tingling and salivation in the diner’s mouth, “carbonating” the bites that followed. “Where people show interest in that sort of thing, we will do something sort of cool for them,” Thompson says. Sounds like a kick. From Shin. You saw that joke coming, right?
Squirmin’ for German
When Shin Thompson shut down Bonsoirée, the next falling domino was to establish Table, Donkey and Stick (2728 W. Armitage Ave., 773-486-8525) in the space. Thompson and his business partner Matt Sussman chose Scott Manley (Vie, El Ideas) to run the kitchen, and Manley chose a German slope from the restaurant’s Alpine theme. “My grandmother was German, and my dad was born in Germany,” Manley says. “We have a lot of love for Pennsylvania Dutch [Germans, of course. —Eds.] in our family. I like scrapple.” His menu filters German food through a Midwestern lens, making sauce for sauerbraten, for example, with natural jus instead of a heavy gravy. We’re loving how German is shaping up as a hot trend of 2013. Wurst is the best.
“Whether it’s foamed with a bamboo whisk in Kyoto or sipped from a paper cup in Chicago, tea is a drink on which the sun never sets.” —Consumer Reports
Howells N the ’Hood
The upcoming (think April) restaurant on the ground floor of Tribune Tower, Howells & Hood (435 N. Michigan Ave., no phone yet), named Scott Walton its head chef at the end of January, signaling a plan for the local-sustainable cuisine he spearheaded at Markethouse. A few dishes from the menu:
- Cedar Springs lamb meatballs with black garlic, homemade Meyer lemon ricotta, smoked-tomato vindaloo, and toasted baguette
- Eggplant ragoût with smoked tomato, kalamata olives, pine nuts, burrata, watercress pistou, and toasted baguette
- A whole grilled Clear Springs rainbow trout with Maple Leaf Farms smoked duck breast, grilled artichoke, asparagus, wild rice, toasted hazelnuts, and soy-maple brown butter
- Grilled Berkshire pork tenderloin with orange chili marinade, purple potato–turnip hash, smoked paprika, and orange gastrique
“Local” bends for some seafood dishes, which include baby octopus and the going-viral lobster roll. Beer flows from 360 taps—possibly the most in the country—serving 108 different beers from three different bars. (The owners hope that small-quantity deliveries will ensure freshness.) Taps on that scale—something we haven’t seen since our last bugling convention.
Go Small or Go Home
This past week, the modern taquería Takito Kitchen (2013 W. Division St., 773-531-2120), set for a March opening, announced their chef and, with him, their big plans. David Dworshak, who spent eight years at the massive Carnivale, including two as executive chef, will oversee the taquitos, chopping the number of seats he’s responsible for by 87 percent, from 600 to 80. The lower numbers mean more TLC. “[At Carnivale,] we [did] 900-plus covers on a Saturday night,” he says. “I want to get back to being extrafocused, with more time spent on each dish”—for example, a Middle Eastern lamb queso fundido with spicy herb salsa and pickled jicama. The house-made corn tortillas, including polenta from Three Sisters, will incorporate small tweaks to pair with particular dishes, such as adding sesame for a pork belly dish or hibiscus for seafood. If that’s the kind of extra focus Dworshak can muster for 80 seats, just imagine what he could do if he was cooking only for himself.
New Review: Piccolo Sogno Due
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. Piccolo Sogno Due previously was not listed. The new review appears in the February issue, on newsstands now.
Piccolo Sogno Due (340 N. Clark St., 312-822-0077). Italian.
½ (good to very good)
$$$ ($40–$49 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
The seafoody sister to Piccolo Sogno, a rustic Italian venture, this spot extends the lovely design and ambiance of the original but doesn’t quite measure up foodwise. For every bull’s-eye—such as rich tagliolini with crabmeat, sea urchin, and garlic or crispy-skinned pike with clams, pancetta, and white beans—there’s an off-center shot, such as a too-bland Scottish salmon carpaccio or a greasy, unrefined rabbit in sherry sauce. Faultless technique and attractive plating, however, bump up all dishes. A well-chosen meal here paired with a wine from the all-Italian list would win over any curmudgeon. Thoughtful, helpful service.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
For a new grass-roots project, reefer—oops, refer to Hash (1357 N. Western Ave., no phone yet), a joint project from Maggie McCoy (Bagel on Damen), Mark Sutherland, and Mitch Newman. The fast-casual BYO specializes in six kinds of hash, with one egg ($6) or two ($9). Hash offerings include the classic corned beef; an Indian version with corned beef, pakora-style vegetable fritters, and raita; and kabanos sausage with sauerkraut, browned onions, and dill Havarti. All hashes are available in a bowl or rolled (in a wrap). New York Bagel and Bialy bagels and Dark Matter coffee feature as well. Ambiance tends toward bootlegged Grateful Dead music and a, you know, chill atmosphere. “Kind of amongst the super-hipster places in the neighborhood, this will be more hippie-dippie,” McCoy says. But what if the hipsters come to Hash? Does it become super-hipster? Did that just blow your mind?
- Pollack projects onto paprika.
- Schnitzel is still a “favorite thing.”
- Some like their queso fundido hot.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
- Cruise into Carnival with traditional Brazilian comida. From now until Friday, Cristiane Pereira (of Taste of Brasil) guest-chefs for lunch at Sikia (740 W. 63rd St., 773-602-5200). A three-course lunch costs $7. Reservations are recommended.
- Sample fruity, fermented goodness from all over the world this Saturday at the Cider Summit, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave., 312-595-7437). For $20 in advance or $25 cash at the door, tickets buy a tasting glass and ten drink tickets. See the event website for a list of ciders and more info.
- Immerse yourself in a Downton Abbey kind of world, even earlier than you usually do on Sundays. This Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m., Greater Midwest Foodways is putting on a high tea inspired by Margaret Powell’s 1968 book Below Stairs, about her life as a servant in early-20th-century England, at Highland Park Community House (1991 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, 312-380-1665). Literary dramatist Leslie Goddard portrays Powell while guests receive one savory course and three sweet, with tea poured throughout. Tickets are $55. Call for reservations ASAP.
- The Italian diner Isabel’s Restaurant (501 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-281-8950) is now open in east Lake View.
- Pide ve Lahmacun (1812 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-248-6344) is now serving Turkish street food as well as coffee and tea near the Irving Park Brown Line stop.
- Horse Thief Hollow (10426 S. Western Ave., 773-779-2739) restaurant and brewery in Beverly opens for lunch today and adds dinner on Monday.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Rafael Vargas (DMK, Anteprima, Acre) has taken over the top chef job at Ombra. . . . A frozen pipe caused a flood at Tortoise Club over the weekend. The restaurant was closed for repairs on Tuesday and reopened this morning.