Five Questions for Beverly Kim
Kim, known for her successful run on Top Chef, announced earlier this month that she and her husband, chef John Clark, would take over Bonsoirée (2728 W. Armitage Ave., 773-486-7511) from Shin Thompson in late August.
Dish: You met your husband when you were working at Opera, right?
Beverly Kim: He sent me his resumé at Opera. I had never met anyone who was passionate about Korean food. I interviewed him. And we had the same favorite Korean dish: chung gook jang. A fermented soybean paste soup—so fermented that it’s known for being really stinky, but it’s so umami rich and good for your health. Only if you were a Korean foodie, would you like it. Ever since we met, we’ve daydreamed about owning our own restaurant inspired by Korean food and taking it to a modern interpretation.
D: How will you be splitting the duties?
BK: He and I are collaborating on food and dishes. I’m going to be there in the morning, the opening chef. Getting a lot of prep work done, receiving, pastries—all the things that need to get done in the morning. He will come in around noonish, and he will close. I will finally be at home to put my son to bed, which I have never been able to do. I’ll be at the restaurant for high tea in the afternoon and will oversee dinner service, but I don’t have to stay for closing.
D: What will the menu be like?
BK: I think we will be able to change pretty often as the season dictates. It will be a nine-course menu for $130 (inclusive of tax and tip) during the week, $160 on weekends.
D: Any courses set yet?
BK: Definitely one of the dessert courses. It’s called pat bing soo. It’s a famous favorite in Korea, but we will do a new take on it, which will involve some kind of flavored ice. It’s going to involve sweetened adzuki beans and a white chocolate ice almost. But we’re still playing with it.
D: Will Bonsoirée still be BYO?
BK: We are not going to be BYO anymore. I assure you that the parings are going to be spectacular. We don’t think every dish has to be paired with a wine. It could be a tableside cocktail or a microbeer. I get really impressed when someone shows me a beer that is out of my comfort zone but really works. That’s what we want to do. Give people an experience they will never forget.
“I think we are the smallest fully liquor-licensed retailer in greater Chicago,” says Scott Bradley, the owner of the 400-square-foot, maybe-14-seat bar The Alcove (512 Main St., Evanston, no phone yet). The restaurant offers some wines by the glass, standard cocktails, and one rotating beer on tap. “This week, it might be Belhaven Scottish ale,” Bradley says. “In fact, that’s what it is this week.” Sandwiches made on a panini grill—such as the one with smoked ham, Vermont cheddar, Dijon mustard, and poached pear on Italian bread—constitute the whole food menu. Bradley says the space constraints demand tremendous storage efficiency, even with the limited number of bottles. If only he could find a way to shrink the customers . . .
“Real (as I will call vine-ripened, soft-walled, acidic-flavored, summer-grown) tomatoes are an article of faith, a rallying point for the morally serious, a grail.” —Raymond Sokolov (1941–), American food journalist who penned the “Eating Out” column for the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition from 2006 until 2010.
Bob’s Your Uncle
The son of a mushroom farmer, Nick Spencer has lived in Chicago for three years while creating his own British- and Irish-style sausages. “There are quite a lot of people who say to me, ‘You moved to Sausage City and couldn’t find a sausage you liked?’” Spencer says. His sausages—called bangers in their homeland—come in a white pepper, nutmeg, and ginger version and one with sage, parsley, and thyme. He sells grilled banger sandwiches and three-rasher back-bacon sandwiches at farmers’ markets and now sells meats and imported British and Irish groceries at Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods (1405 W. Irving Park Rd., 312-415-6919), a 400-square-foot storefront that opened July 14 and keeps odd hours because of the market commitments. Spencer wants to be open during the afternoon, from Wednesday through Sunday. “I’m going to get a counter and a toaster so you can come in and get a cup of tea,” he says. “We are going to start making scones. Walk in and we’ll turn on the kettle.”
Two Peas in a Pod
The husband-and-wife team Mickey Hornick and Jo Kaucher, who own Chicago Diner, first met each other at The Bread Shop, a vegetarian soup kitchen mentioned in Studs Terkel’s Working and a previous occupant of the diner’s location at Halsted and Roscoe Streets. When the diner opened in 1983, “vegetarian back then was heavy-hippy-grainy,” Hornick says. “[Kaucher] made vegetarian like Alice Waters. Made it lighter and more attractive.” Now, almost three decades later, Hornick and Kaucher have acquired another community-minded spot—Logan Square Kitchen—for their second Chicago Diner (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-252-3211). “Someone said Logan Square must be gentrifying now if Chicago Diner is coming,” Hornick says. “We are identified with being hipster. Being 62 years old, I don’t identify with being a hipster.” They will make a few design changes in collaboration with Rachel Crowl, who designed Yusho, but few menu changes, and they hope to open by Thanksgiving. (Note that Dish takes the high road here by avoiding a tofurkey joke.) The larger kitchen in Logan Square will serve as a better commissary for the Chicago Diner baked goods sold at some Whole Foods. Watch for a third location in about 2041.
In a chat with the omphalos of the Belly empire, Bill Kim, we learned a few new tidbits and were reminded of a few old ones about his forthcoming 200-plus-seat modern Asian barbecue spot, BellyQ (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-563-1010). Among them:
- The executive chef will be Jeff Schwepp, a former extern of Kim and a veteran of José Garces’s Philadelphia restaurants Chifa and Amada.
- BellyQ will be the second restaurant in the United States, after New York’s Kristalbelli (no relation), to use infrared grills—visible through street-facing windows—where customers can cook their own food, possibly including Kim’s take on Korean short ribs.
- Chicken, duck, and pork will be tea-smoked in an industrial-size Chinese water smoker. “It imparts intense flavor for a very short period of time,” Kim says.
- The to-go area will have its own entrance and exit but will share the kitchen.
- The decor has been totally transformed. “We didn’t want anyone to walk in and think they were in One Sixtyblue,” Kim says. “A lot of energy and research went into this, and One Sixtyblue did not have a karaoke room.”
- Desserts will include a version of bubble tea.
- Kim hopes to open in August.
Updated Reviews: The Purple Pig
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. The Purple Pig’s rating increased from one-and-a-half stars to two stars in its new review in the August issue, on newsstands now.
The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave., 312-464-1744). Mediterranean.
$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Be forewarned: The Purple Pig remains a remarkably loud affair, thanks to a blaring rock soundtrack, cramped communal tables, and a no-reservations policy that deters no one. Thankfully, the small-plate menu, both fun and frivolous, is more than worth the chaos. Think Greek chicken kebabs with homemade tzatziki, Spanish-inspired squares of fried Basque cheese with membrillo (quince paste), and Italian meatball sliders. The biggest surprise? For a place named after pork, the vegetable options, especially the spearmint peas with bacon, are irresistible, as is the wine list, which offers treats for all tastes and price points.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Named in honor of the owner’s father, who made his fortune in extruding plastic auto parts, Chuck’s Manufacturing (224 N. Michigan Ave., 312-334-6700) is scheduled to open in the former China Grill space in August. The chef, Justin Frankenberg, says the something-for-everyone menu gives diners the option to customize a meal of three small portions. For example, a crab cake with pancetta and cornichons or mini bratwurst soaked in Two Brothers Dog Days lager. Desserts include adult milk shakes made with a huge selection of flavored vodkas and, Frankenberg says, “superstacked, real-deal, like-your-mom-made chocolate cake.” If you’re having trouble picturing the building, it’s right next to the dental office Stu’s Plumbing and the tchotchke shop Floyd’s Heating and Air Conditioning.
- There are some new faces in the Sixteen kitchen.
- A Chicago staffer tackles some heavy subject matter.
- Pollack reaches fried-chicken nirvana at City Tavern.
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On the Blog
- Feast your eyes on photos of Pollack’s Canadian gastrotour.
Things to Do
1. Celebrate lobster season at Socca (3301 N. Clark St., 773-248-1155), where the chef Roger Herring added an encore to his original lobster night after it sold out in the snap of a claw. At the August 1 event—which kicks off at 5 p.m.—a fresh whole Maine lobster costs $10. Herring also is cooking up special sides, such as Green Acres Farm green beans with shallots, for an additional charge. Call the restaurant to reserve a spot (and a bib).
2. Track down Public Chicago’s ice tricycle, a pedaler/peddler that works the lakefront path between North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach from 1 to 4 p.m. on weekends. The Popsicle-like frozen treats are free, and flavors—which derive from the hotel’s cocktail menu—include ginger margarita, thyme lemonade, and raspberry lychee Bellini. Bonus: Each day, 20 treats will have a $15 coupon for the Library Bar or the Pump Room’s bar tacked onto them.
3. Re-celebrate lobster season, this time at Red Door (2118 N. Damen Ave., 773-697-7221), which presents Rockin’ Lobster Bash on July 31 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Red Door’s chef, Troy Graves, will be joined by other big names, including Mindy Segal (Mindy’s Hot Chocolate), Jason Vincent (Nightwood), and Paul Fehribach (Big Jones), for a night feting the crustacean, with plentiful lobster samples, cocktails, wine, and beer, all for $60. Purchase tickets here.
4. Slide through Grub Street’s slide show of 25 top tacos around town.
- Two (1132 W. Grand Ave., 312-624-8363), a West Town venture from the owners of Hinsdale’s Zak’s Place, celebrates its grand opening on Friday.
- Real Urban BBQ (1260 S. Milwaukee Ave., Highland Park, 847-613-1227), a second location of the Highland Park joint known for its homemade sauce and slow-smoked proteins, fires up the grills on Friday as well.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Forbes reports online that the spirited seafood institution Bob Chinn’s Crab House is the nation’s highest-grossing restaurant. The Wheeling mainstay pulls in an estimated $24 million annually. . . . M. Henry and M. Henrietta have dropped dinner service and will refocus on breakfast, always both restaurants’ bread and butter. . . . Farewell to Gabriel’s, Rewster’s, and Matto Fornaio, which have already closed their doors, and to the four-star indulgence Ria, which will call it quits on Friday as the rebranded Waldorf-Astoria Chicago rethinks its dining offerings. Hotel management says an announcement on the future of its restaurants is planned for the fourth quarter of 2012.