Buzz List For October 1, 2018

Temporis is the one and only winner this year, Sula likes Funkenhausen, Ina Mae and Maebe Not, Treasure Island sails into the sunset, and won't you be my neighborhood restaurant?

Temporis/Facebook
A dish at Temporis

1. TEMPORIS FUGIT

So Michelin did its thing and my predictions were astonishingly accurate! I predicted there was one obvious winner and indeed, there was one winner… though it was Temporis, not S.K.Y. So congrats to those guys (not the same two guys as when I wrote about them, but all the same, good for them doing it their own way).

Otherwise, I predicted that Oriole or Smyth might get three stars, or not—and “not” was exactly right! Likewise, I predicted that Somerset or Bellemore might get one, or not—and again, my “not” was dead on. It’s uncanny! And finally, I thought that hopes that The Publican was headed for a star ran against Michelin’s tendency to mainly deliver bad news, not good, and sure enough, “not” proved prescient again.

In fact, the only prediction you could entirely count on was that we would pay entirely too much attention to this list again. There will be a new edition of The Fooditor 99 in about two months, and I guarantee you that there will be more great advice, and new advice, about where to eat in it than watching the glockenspiel-like movements of the Michelin machinery year after year.

But enough self-pluggery. The one interesting bit this year is that Anthony Todd spoke to a Michelin spokesman who admitted that “the suburbs are now off limits (‘for this year,’ a Michelin representative says, when reached by email). ​Secondly, the entire city isn’t even under consideration. The spokesperson laid out the guide’s current boundaries: ‘North to Andersonville, Edgewater & Uptown, West to Humboldt Park & Logan Square/Pilsen & Bridgeport, South to Hyde Park.’”

This isn’t really a secret, even if they denied it to Crain’s a couple of years ago. They are a guide for tourists, and tourists aren’t going to Western Springs (Vie) or Winnetka (Georges Trois). Crain’s has another good piece talking to (presumably the same) inspector here: “‘Some years are more interesting and more exciting than others,’ he said. ‘This was just a year where we lost a few.'”

2. BIBSTERY

So there was one Bib Gourmand named that was rather a mystery to me—not a “How did that get one?” mystery (though there are some of those) but a “What is that?” mystery. It’s a restaurant in Chinatown (one of only two on the list proper) doing Yunnanese noodle soups, called Daguan Noodle. No one has reviewed it; no one on LTHForum has posted on it; only two people ever mentioned it on Twitter before Michelin.

But everything is reviewed on Yelp, and so I looked there and it had 13 reviews, which isn’t many for Chinatown (by comparison, Slurp Slurp down the street, a little older, has 161). We also learn that it opened in May, and that it has a total rating of just three stars. Yelp vs. Michelin! Honestly, no one is that wowed—even one of the five stars adjusts your expectations by saying, “Please don’t expect it to be some kind of unusual or mind-blowing noodle place! It is a place to get decent RICE noodle.” While the one stars are scathing, as is Yelp’s wont: “Claimed to [be] authentic Guoqiao noodle, but honestly, anybody can make that rice noodle by pouring MSG into their noodle soup.”

So hey, maybe Michelin’s inspector really knows Yunnanese noodles and has spotted a gem that no one else was aware of, and was so sure of it that he gave it an award after just a few months when S.K.Y., open twice as long, has to wait. Or maybe… that’s the only place they ate in Chinatown besides MingHin, and they threw it a Bib so there’d be one more recommendation, such as it is, in Chinatown. Given Michelin’s impenetrability, we’ll never know.

3. INA, IS THERE ANYONE FINA

Nick Kindelsperger endorses Brian Jupiter’s take on not-just-Bourbon Street-New Orleans food and drink at Ina Mae Tavern: “Things get more interesting in the middle of the menu, which is dedicated mostly to boiled or fried seafood. The boiled offerings come with tender potatoes and corn, and they might make you feel slightly virtuous, but you’ll be passing up the chance to see what this kitchen can do with a fryer. The crunchy fried Gulf shrimp ($14) stay remarkably plump, while bite-size fried crawfish ($14) are clean and juicy. Can’t decide? Go with a po’ boy seafood tower, which at $36 is a steal, especially compared with the $150 fresh seafood towers businesspeople with expense accounts order downtown.”

Titus Ruscitti is a little more critical—including of one of the thing Jupiter prides himself in Kindelsperger’s article, the bread for the po’boys: “The Po Boy had strengths and weaknesses. The strength was in the fried shrimp. They were just about perfect. But I felt like the bread could’ve been better. D’Amato’s maybe? Still though we aren’t in Nola. It was damn good for Chicago. It just needed some crisper bread.”

4. CLONES OF DR. FUNKENHAUSEN

“An uptight attitude about southern and/or German food closes one off to the possibility of embracing gemütlichkeit, or any pleasure at all,” says Mike Sula, critiquing pure reason in the context of eating the southern-German fusion at Funkenhausen. His favorite example of Chef Mark Steuer’s party food is the same as mine was: “soft, house-made ricotta dumplings with cauliflower, meaty oyster mushrooms, crumbled kielbasa, and gooseberries in a glossy sauce made from the ricotta whey and reduced chicken stock, topped off with a charred rosemary vinaigrette. More than anything, it prompts a pursuit of athletic indulgence without the leaden heaviness normally associated with northern-European food.”

5. SELFIE STUCK

Crain’s Joanne Trestrail renders judgement on Terrace 16 in the Trump Tower: “With its glittering chandeliers and spare-no-expense decor, the 65-seat dining room aims for opulence but feels more like a slightly gritty tourist attraction, or trap… The casually dressed pilgrims (baggy shorts and T-shirts, flip-flops, baseball caps) who flock here at midday may experience sticker shock when they see what their selfies could cost them.”

6. ETTA PLACE

When I went to Etta, a few weeks after its very busy opening, I liked the food… but the staff had the thousand yard stare of battle-weary veterans. Maggie Hennessy had a similar experience: “From the dazed way in which Etta’s host staff shuffled us between floors to the flippant negligence of our server, my two dates and I felt less than welcomed here despite being so dazzlingly well fed.” Still, food wise, Danny Grant’s menu is successful at doing comfy food with some pizzazz: “a habit-forming bowl of ruffled squid ink mafaldine—tangled among sweet clams, fried garlic and king crab and doused in lemon-kissed nduja butter sauce beneath a canopy of golden breadcrumbs—brought us dangerously close to being full. But we persevered in the name of the hearth-fired piece de resistance: a (filleted) whole branzino dressed in capers and lemon, its delicate white meat encased in beautifully singed skin.”

7. PRESIDING JUDGE

The temptation to fire a final salvo as you close a restaurant should probably be resisted, but the one that Patrick Cullen posted on Facebook about The Presidio in Bucktown, and then amplified for Block Club Chicago, has some very good points: “I want to advocate for the types of bars and restaurants that have always been the backbone of Chicago — the City of Neighborhoods. While our local food media have become ever-more enchanted by heat maps, celebrity chefs, ‘restaurant rows,’ glitzy awards ceremonies, and big box restaurant groups, the neighborhood joint has suffered… The message is, stop waiting until your favorite spot is on its last leg.” Fooditor, you may recall, finally visited The Presidio a couple of weeks ago.

8. DUTCH COURAGE

Michael Nagrant and Penny Pollack brave Dutch & Doc’s in Wrigleyville in the latest Dining Out Loud podcast.

9. GUESTS BEHAVING BADLY

Chef Michael Lachowicz (Michael, George Trois) has a funny Facebook post about people who bring in wine that should skip the glass and go straight to the waste treatment facility.

10. THE BLACK SPOT

When I first moved here, in the previous millennium, Treasure Island Foods was the grocery store on the north side, the place for gourmet goods in a city which otherwise was surprisingly lacking in specialty stores except in ethnic enclaves. “America’s most European supermarket,” a quote from Julia Child on the wall said, and that pretty much summed up its Gold Coast target audience of older ladies with money (though the one I shopped was the then-new Clybourn location). The chain was launched in 1963 by three Greeks, Christ and Frank Kamberos and Bill Allen (née Vasilios Karamboles), the latter of whom also owned a jazz club, the Gold Star Sardine Bar, though the partnership eventually ended in lawsuits. Allen, since written out of the corporate history, seems to have been the one who really drove the gourmet positioning, doing things that seem outlandish now, like flying in Poilane bakery bread from Paris. (It was tasty and impressively crusty. It was also always day-old bread.)

Anyway, that was then, this is now, when Whole Foods dominates the upscale food scene and Treasure Island stores, on the rare occasions I’ve visited them in recent years, seem like relics from the north shore transplanted to Chicago. Mainly, though, they’ve just been off my mental map of where to shop entirely, and so it’s not surprising that the announcement has now come that Treasure Island will close entirely in a couple of weeks. Ate atque vale.

WHERE MIKE ATE

At neighborhood places, the types of bars and restaurants that have always been the backbone of Chicago!

Income Tax has a new chef, Ellison Park, recently of Parachute, whom I met at a small media dinner. No, the menu hasn’t taken an Asian turn, but from being pretty clearly defined French/Italian/Spanish, it now flows more freely between wine regions, with a few reaches into the middle east (a stewed eggplant schmear was one of the highlights, so was crusty bread with inky dark Moroccan olive oil). This is not just one of my favorite neighborhood places, it’s practically a dictionary definition of one, friendly and consistently delivering more than you expect. Michelin should try visiting Edgewater some time!

Le Sud, the first thing to open in my neighborhood of Roscoe Village that isn’t a sports bar or a sandwich shop in a long time, seems well on its way to being a similar model neighborhood spot, with classic French food from Ryan Brousseau (Table, Donkey & Stick) and a lot of staff from the late De Quay. They were very welcoming to locals and I liked dishes ranging from wood-grilled escargot to an especially good pan-roasted duck breast lacquered in honey, though I agree with my dining companion Kenny Z that the foie tart was a disappointment in a city where the bar has been set high by Elske.

I wrote about Chef Rob Shaner during his brief time at Royal Grocer and apparently that played a part in landing him a job at The Kennison, which is in the old Perennial space. The menu is aimed pretty middle of the road, fish and chips were the standout there, but Shaner gets more of a chance to do his own thing around the edges—the radish pasta he made before remains an eye-opener, and a pasta with woodsy mushrooms and lichen was very tasty as well. This is a place that knows who its customers are, but tries to nudge them to be more adventurous, too.

 

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