Perennial (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070), the newest spot from Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz (Boka, Landmark), looks sharp. Natural organic touches dominate: birch trees, wood-grained tables, aqua-striped upholstered banquettes. The canvas flaps stretched across the ceiling seem a sly reference to Boka’s décor. But that was the beginning and end of any connection to the team’s other enjoyable restaurants. Wings and beer sounded like fun but the weird combo of hunky—and overcooked—drumsticks and delicate blue cheese foam (devoid of blue cheese flavor) bombed at Pollack’s table. It’s high season for asparagus but the soup failed to pop any serious flavor. Then came more flavorless foam on a rainbow trout, which was overshadowed by peas laced with bacon. Chocolate crémeux turned out to be the highlight.
“At 73, no longer a god in the garden or a satyr in the forest, he is a wolf at table.” –Prince of Ligne, describing Casanova (1725-98) in his old age
Freedom of Choice
The Counter (666 W. Diversey Pkwy.), a celebrated full-service premium hamburger chain based in Southern California, has plans to open its first Chicago outpost in early September (with 15 more to come by 2015). The burgers [$6 to $14.75] are made of natural Angus beef, humanely raised, and hand-formed into patties in-house, and when you walk into the restaurant you are handed a clipboard to customize yours. “You choose beef, turkey, veggie, or grilled chicken,” says Brian Berman, The Counter’s director of marketing. “You are then given choices of ten aged domestic or imported cheeses, 28 toppings, and 18 sauces, and three artisan baked buns.” We’re no mathematicians, but we’re told this adds up to 312,000 possible combinations.
Beware of Jumping Children
The Bagel Restaurant & Deli (3107 N. Broadway; 773-477-0300), one of Chicago’s most adored delis, will reopen on July 18th following renovations. “We’re still keeping the Broadway theme,” says Danny Wolf, a co-owner. “New looks, new colors, new light fixtures, new stainless steel tables. The walls are going to be a padded vinyl, sort of forties look. A little more upscale.” And they’ve finally repadded the booths. “No more rips and tears from jumping children,” says Wolf. The menu, Wolf has assured us, will not change.
“The sushi is better than before. We are younger than the previous owner and we like challenges. Our sushi chefs are very creative and can make more than 100 original rolls. Like ‘orange sunshine’ [$10]. Inside is shrimp tempura with crab and avocado and outside is orange with salmon. And it has red tobiko on the top. They like to create a roll and have a customer name it. If you come in again, they will remember what they made for you and make it again.” –Michelle Ly, managing partner of the BYO Kyoto Sushi Restaurant (2534 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-477-2788), which closed in September 2007, remodeled, and reopened in March
A Mixed Baguette
We sent Becca, our crafty intern, to the opening of Madame Tartine (22 E. Hubbard St.; 312-755-0007). Her take: Good, hip music; nice staff; excellent duck confit spring rolls; lousy guacamole-topped tuna tartare; wonderful crisp frites. And everyone left with a mini baguette. “This was not the kind of food I ate in France,” she says. “But they didn’t claim it was supposed to be.” As for the décor, Becca describes it as a mix of French countryside and an attempt at retro-cool: “It reminded me of the housing accessories at Urban Outfitters,” she says.
We read in Crain’s about the financial troubles at DeLaCosta (465 E. Illinois St.; 312-464-1700)—the place filed Chapter 11—and wondered if the turmoil had carried over into the kitchen. “We are reorganizing,” says Madison Drake, the director of marketing and special events. “Randall Jacobs, the former sous-chef, is the new executive chef. He will be cooking for VIPs at the Olympics in Beijing. We have about five years to pay off our debt, and we are very profitable. Our food never fails, and I don’t think our service does, either. Douglas Rodriguez [the celebrity chef/owner] has not taken his name off the restaurant. He’s very positive that this is the direction to go.”
Things to Do
- Break your enforced foie gras fast in a big way at Graham Elliot (217 W. Huron St.; 312-624-9975), which hosts “Foielapalooza” during Lollapalooza weekend (August 1st-3rd). August 2nd features the Wilco-inspired “Yankee Hotel Foie Gras” (corn nut–crusted foie gras with corn foam, caramel corn, popcorn shoots, and candy corn).
- Admire the ingenuity of this plucky Humboldt Park resident.
- Get tickets for epicurious.com’s third annual “Wine.Dine.Donate” dinner to benefit local food banks July 24th at MK (868 N. Franklin St., 312-482-9179; $125).
- Hear Jerry Seinfeld’s take on McDonald’s.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Tony Priolo’s Piccolo Sogno (464 N. Halsted St.; 312-421-0077) opens on July 16th, and it’s BYO for now. . . . We didn’t believe that Redfish (400 N. State St.), the longtime Cajun spot in River North, had closed, but when we walked past, there was a guy inside on a stepladder taking down light fixtures. And a sign on the door that said “Closed.” . . . One good sandwich: the juicy tandoori chicken number with feta, cukes, and tomato-apricot chutney at The Lucky Platter (514 Main St., Evanston; 847-869-4064) . . . After ten years in Bucktown, Bar Louie (1704 N. Damen Ave.) closed at the end of June. . . . Cindy Schuman, former pastry chef at Kevin, is now doing the desserts at Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920). . . . Rich Melman says that Rick Tramonto and his partners have asked him to consult on Wheeling’s Cenitare Restaurants (Osteria Di Tramonto, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood). “Rick wants a fresh set of eyes looking at what they’ve done over there,” Melman says. . . . UFood Grill, a Massachusetts-based healthy food chain, opens its first Midwest location at 200 West Jackson Boulevard on July 28th. Another is under construction at 823 South State Street.