In January, Jacky Pluton, who flirted with four stars at Pluton a couple of years back, plans to open a traditional brasserie called Haussmann in the space that once housed MK North and Brasserie T (305 S. Happ Rd.; Northfield). “It will be a Chicago brasserie with Parisian flair,” says Pluton. “Some very rustic dishes, but some dishes will have more of a 2008 feel. We will do a lot of tableside, from rib eye for two to Dover sole to roasted chicken for two. And every day, we will have a baked fish in clay.” The restaurant, named for Baron Haussmann (a 19th-century French legend who rebuilt Paris under Napoleon III), is the latest attempt to succeed in a familiar address. “I think it is one of the best spaces in the North Shore,” says Pluton. “No one took advantage of it before. And I will be honest: I think the former people who ran the space before me did not take care of the customers.” Well, all righty, then.
5 Questions for chef Terrance Brennan (Picholine, Artisanal Bistro & Wine Bar in New York), who plans to open a 7,000-square-foot Artisanal at an undisclosed location in downtown Chicago next fall
D: You started cooking at age 13. Where?
TB: My dad owned a family restaurant in Virginia. I did the frying and the pizzas, and he let me drive the car in the parking lot. That was the most fun. Had a whole little racetrack set up in the back of the restaurant.
D: Any formal training?
TB: No. Self-imposed apprenticeship. I went to Europe, which I call finishing school. Worked in Taillevent and other Michelin-starred restaurants. Then Le Cirque, where we were in the weeds every day, every night. Like a boot camp for haute cuisine.
D: What will your focus be at the Chicago Artisanal?
TB: Cheese and fondue. Great cuisines for colder weather. Other small plates. It’ll be similar to the one in New York but with a few surprises. You will sit at a counter, looking at the cheeses, like at a sushi bar. You will be able to watch us make mozzarella.
D: Why Chicago?
TB: I love Chicago. That’s number one. Been coming for years on vacation. And it’s a great restaurant town, getting ready to challenge New York. In my mind, if it’s not the top, at least second in the country.
D: Why don’t you move from New York to Chicago and get it over with?
TB: If I didn’t have three young children, I would move to Chicago. Don’t want to be a big-shot chef coming in; I want to be a part of the community. [I plan to be there] quite a bit, every other week, at least in the beginning. And use local PR, local architects, and local purveyors. I hope to expand in Chicago.
Julio Nepomiachi (Tonic Room), an Argentina native unveiling his own BYO barbecue spot in Lincoln Park next month—Smoke Shack (800 W. Altgeld St.; 773-248-8886)—states his BBQ credentials as such: “I’m Argentinean. I’m a good cook.” So will it be North American or South American? “Very much like a mix,” he says. “I put the meat in a smoker for eight hours, and it rotates like a rotisserie but it’s a smoking machine.” Other features: Argentinean chorizo sandwiches, organic veggies, and multiple french fry options. “And I’m making chimichurri, too,” says Nepomiachi. “I have to do it. That will be one of the sauces.”
“You will never get out of pot or pan anything fundamentally better than what went into it. Cooking is not alchemy; there is no magic in the pot.” –Martha McCulloch-Williams (1848-1934), American writer
Five Cool Things Done Recently by Dale Levitski, Runner-Up on Top Chef
1. Cooked with Eric Ripert at a Food & Wine event in the Cayman Islands. “I just jumped right into hoity-toity food land,” he says.
2. Snorkeled with Ripert and four other chefs from Le Bernardin
3. Drank beer on a boat and caught stingrays with Ripert
4. Announced plans for Town and Country (at Monroe and Canal Sts.), a 175-seat West Loop spot opening in spring 2008 (“No one should expect the very detailed food that I’m known for. It will be very simple. Unpretentious great food.”)
5. Said this: “I apologize that I didn’t win. But second place is the new black.”
One of our critics recently went nuts for the sweet corn flan at Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.; 312-337-6070): “Pastry chef Elizabeth Dahl should win the Nobel Prize for this. Silky smooth but bursting with the lightly sweet flavor of fresh corn—really an explosion of flavor. Top lightly caramelized, sprinkled with kernels of toasted dried corn, and it was like a delicate wafer underneath. Also on the plate: two plump blackberries, swirls of blackberry sauce, a dab of tart crème fraîche, and smoked paprika, of all things. Egads, this is good.”
Random Observations from the October 9th opening party at Brasserie Ruhlmann (500 W. Superior St.; 312-494-1900), by Sarah the Intern
• “Lots of burgundy: the seating, the curtains. The room feels cozy despite its spaciousness.”
• “What’s with all the shrimp?”
• “So far, all the tables I’ve tried have been a little wobbly.”
• “Peking duck is very tender, but I don’t notice any Pekingness.”
• “That woman’s dress is on the short side. She might want to eat standing up.”
• “I saw a lady who looked just like Blanche from Golden Girls.”
• “Steak au poivre is good, but they’re not kidding about the ‘poivre’ part. I can feel the burn in my stomach.”
• “Servers are very good at making sure people have something to drink. The girl at the next table is in the process of getting schnockered.”
Things to Do
1. Learn to roast a pig like an expert on October 14th at Red Light (820 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-8880), where ABC 7’s Steve Dolinsky will do up a whole hog in a La Caja China box on the patio, and Jackie Shen will demo two dishes from the cookbook she’s working on. (Call Red Light for reservations; $65 per person includes plenty of food and beer; proceeds benefit Near North Montessori School).
2. Look into lunch at La Casa del Gordo (2014 First St., Highland Park; 847-266-1411), which has a menu packed with $5 items.
3. Read this article, a smart defense of eating crap that includes such gems as: “Ever wonder why your dog can gobble, lick, and gnaw all he wants along the glorious buffet of a city street and (almost) never get sick? Your dog is used to eating shit.”
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Opening later this winter in the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza (350 W. Mart Plaza Dr.) is Cityscape, an upscale restaurant/lounge on the 15th floor, with a view of the Chicago River. . . . Saltaus (1350 W. Randolph St.), a Mediterranean spot that made waves when it opened in 2005, has closed. . . . Brilliant or ridiculous? . . . Another Sushi X (1136 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-491-9232) will open this winter, this time in Lincoln Park at 543 West Diversey Avenue (formerly Zucco and Cucina Bella). . . . Jonathan Harootunian, the executive chef of Courtright’s (8989 Archer Ave. Willow Springs; 708-839-8000), is leaving the restaurant in three weeks to become a private chef; his hand-picked replacement will be Ryan McCaskey (Rushmore). . . . Last week, we listed an incorrect address for The Powerhouse Restaurant and Bar (312-928-0800). The correct address is 215 North Clinton Street.