Buzz List For September 24, 2018

Bibs burble again, Bristol toasts 10, South Side gets a spotlight, Dutch & Doc's pleases Phil, and what I thought about Kyōten

Good Measure/Facebook
Nashville Hot fried duck livers, at Good Measure

1. BIB BLURB

It’s time to do that Michelin thing again, with the Bib Gourmands coming out last Wednesday and the stars due this week. As always I find at least as many restaurants I truly love among the Bibs as among the starred restaurants, and so the splendid Daisies and the very promising Passerotto deservedly join old friends like Fat Rice, mfk., The Bristol, and many others. Pizzeria Bebu, which I’m pretty sure I was the first to make the case for being the best pizza in town in The Fooditor 99, is another happy addition. We learned that Proxi, Marisol and Pacific Standard Time will not get stars this year by their Bib awards; the first, at least, is an obviously deserving one star, but Michelin, you do you.

Others include DeGuan Noodle in Chinatown and Jade Court (Phil Vettel’s fave) not far from it, and the Tex-Mex Lonesome Rose in Logan Square, which I must admit is a surprise as it has not exactly been a hot topic among foodies next to more interesting Mex-ish places nearby (Mi Tocaya and Quiote, both already Bibs). The Publican fell off the list, and I hear a lot of people saying that means they’re going to get a star; I don’t see Michelin putting any other One Off restaurant on the same level as Blackbird, so I’ll rate that unlikely if not impossible. Maude’s Liquor Bar and Luella’s Southern Kitchen were also knocked off the Bib list, while Green Zebra and Jaipur (one of the real WTF choices in past years) have closed.

As far as Wednesday’s announcement of stars, honestly I don’t see many moves to make. I wouldn’t be surprised by either Oriole or Smyth moving to three stars—I also won’t be surprised if they don’t, given Michelin’s usual turtle pace in these things. Beyond that, what’s left? It seems fairly likely that S.K.Y. will get a star (otherwise it surely would have gotten a Bib), and I won’t be shocked if either Somerset or Bellemore does. The tire guys seem to be clueless on the subject of Monteverde, and I don’t expect that to change. Otherwise, I can’t think of anything else that fits their narrow conception of what to recommend in a city, so it’s hard to imagine this is going to be one of those years where their news is terribly surprising.

2. SOUTHSIDE HUSTLE

Southside Weekly’s annual Best of the South Side issue is out, and as usual, food is a very good reason to pay attention to the south side, even if not enough people do. Here’s the full list, and there’s too many to link to all of them, but a couple I particularly liked:

Machetes Big Quesadillas: “A vegetarian used to only having one option will find themself especially satisfied by the meatless fillings: queso, nopales, champiñones, huitlacoche, rajas poblanas, and the crown jewel, flor de calabaza. But why choose just one? Machetes knows a dilemma when it creates one, which is why you’ll be getting all six options in the Machete Champion, a quesadilla that allows for up to ten fillings.”

50th and Ashland Elotes Stand: “On the corner of 50th and Ashland, next to an empty lot and a furniture store, sits a modest yellow stand outfitted with corn, mangos, chicharrones de harina, and an assortment of toppings. Despite the other options, the star is clearly the corn—the stand has “Elote” and “Corn” written in large letters on the sides—and, boy, does this corn shine. For just $2.50 you can treat yourself to a cup of corn coated with a generous helping of mayo, butter, and cotija, all topped with ground cayenne. One bite and it’s all golden skies, warm air, children laughing, and chin-dripping-savor-every-last-bite goodness.”

But there’s lots, including a Polish bar, soul food and more, so keep reading and discovering.

3. HAIL, BRISTOL

No one, including me, has ever explained why The Bristol has an English name for a midwestern farm to table restaurant with a fair amount of pasta, but otherwise Anthony Todd offers a nice history of one of Chicago’s most influential restaurants, celebrating its 10th anniversary this week: “Back in 2008, the term ‘farm-to-table’ wasn’t yet the marketing buzzword it is today, and the Bristol was doing it right. The team created relationships with farmers, giving them shoutouts on its menus and sourcing the best ingredients it could. ‘We felt fervently about sourcing,’ says [co-owner John] Ross. ‘These days, it’s more inferred, and it’s less necessary to educate diners. It’s gotten to the point where most restaurants, if they have any belief in their own product, should be buying that way.'” They’ll be offering a $39 four-course throwback menu through Thursday—though many things on the original menu remain favorites to this day.

4. CARDS WITH A MAN CALLED DOC

Couldn’t resist that Chicago author’s line… but Phil Vettel finds eating at Dutch & Doc’s better than eating at a place called Mom’s: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but don’t miss the chicken wings. Pandel isn’t doing some reimagined treatment here. These are straight-up Buffalo-style wings, served with the requisite celery stalks and an excellent blue-cheese dip. The flavors are note-perfect.” But he says don’t stop with bar food: “Dutch and Doc’s has a nice range of adult eating, including a quartet of pasta dishes—the pappardelle with beef-pork sugo, pecorino and torn basil with a porcini-inflected pomodoro sauce is a keeper.”

5. MEASURE FOR MEASURE

Mike Sula laments the absence of a long pasta list at Matt Troost’s return to the kitchen, Good Measure in River North, but the Three Aces/Charlatan chef is doing good work nonetheless: “Good Measure seems like a good fit for the often-irreverent Italo-bar food he was capable of at Three Aces. He goes there with cylindrical deep-fried supplì, arancini-like deep-fried Roman risotto fritters, here spiked with pepperoni and planted in a radiant marinara made with sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes. And again (with a detour to France) with ribbons of prosciutto on toast slicked with a creamy, eggy sauce gribiche with bracingly fresh parsley and chervil. Gluey and overelastic, burrata makes a less credible case with cucumber, pickled peaches, and puffed quinoa.”

6. BON VOYAGE

Graham Meyer says the new Cafe Bonhomme is trendy—as in trending downward: “The venerable space that houses Cafe Bonhomme most recently housed the lamentably short-lived Pearl Tavern and its reboot, Pearl Brasserie, which was even shorter lived (but less lamentably so). As the space has cycled through restaurants, it’s been like a blanket deteriorating: Pearl Tavern was trim and tight. Pearl Brasserie wore thin in a few spots. Cafe Bonhomme has some holes.”

7. I LIKE THE JAVA HYPE

“Are there too many local coffee roasters?” asks Nick Kindelsperger, who proceeds to talk with several of them about why there are so many, and to list no fewer than 38. Meanwhile, what he doesn’t like, and explains why with the help of some experts, is diner coffee: “Turns out, lots of diners serve weak coffee. How else do you think they can afford to endlessly refill those mugs? But after a few weeks of diner hopping, I also came to the conclusion that most diner coffee isn’t just weak, it’s bad. With a few notable exceptions, I could barely finish a cup. I encountered coffee that was achingly bitter, aggressively smoky and somehow still watery. Some sips stung with an astringency that left my tongue oddly dry.”

8. SQUARING OFF WITH INA

Ina Pinkney’s latest breakfast column visits Square Biscuit (“First, let me assure you that the biscuits are square and really good”), Ovo Frito in Evanston and a return to Mortar & Pestle.

9. ISRAELI HAPPENING

Just last week I was observing apropos of Aba that we still didn’t have a serious Israeli cuisine restaurant like New Orleans’ Shaya… and responding to my writings, 2018 James Beard Rising Chef winner Zach Engel, formerly of Shaya, is now coming to Chicago next year to open Galit, per the Tribune.

10. MILLER’S TIME

Although Exchequer’s Pub is my first choice for oh-so-old school dining in the Loop, I respect Miller’s Pub for its long tradition of existence, and so I’m happy to see Penny Pollack and Michael Nagrant ignore the new and trendy this week to look at this place after a recent fixer-up on the Dining Out Loud podcast. Penny’s verdict: “It’s just like being in a deli but with lots of other gimrack around.” Apparently she just invented that word on the spot, but like all the best neologisms, you already know what it means.

11. POD PEOPLE

Joseph Hernandez of the Trib food section was on Racist Sandwich, talking about being a person of color in food media.

Nick Kindelsperger was on Outside the Loop, talking about why diner coffee is no good.

And Steve Dolinsky talks Chicago pizza, yes, on The Feed, but also pizza from other parts of the country with New York’s Scott Weiner, California’s Tony Gemignani and others.

12. OPEN AND SHUT

The Open Table employee who allegedly made lots of false reservations at places using rival Reserve has been charged and apparently plans to plead guilty. That seems to be all there was to it… (Tribune)

13. I DON’T KNOW, I NEVER DUMPLED

Chicago mag looks for some of the best soup dumplings in town.

WHAT MIKE ATE

People kept asking me after the Kyōten piece, have you eaten there? How was it? I think the idea of better sushi than ever before was compelling to a lot of my regular correspondents.

But it’s not just a matter of something better on a straight line scale—like 45 day-aged ribeye over 30 day-aged ribeye. I’ve probably had as good fatty tuna or as good kinmedai in ingredient quality. I think the better comparison for Kyōten is something like Smyth—you’ve had farm to table before, but not this way. Chef Otto Phan does things to it no one else would think of doing.

So Kyōten is different in eccentric, surprising ways, as Smyth is different from Oriole and Oriole from Blackbird. It starts with the big, pebbly rice—my next sushi meal, the rice will seem very small—and the strong vinegar profile, and certainly extends to the fish; there’s a shrimp course, wild shrimp caught at sea off Texas with a thick, milky texture, that shows you how different something can be that you’ve had all your life.

But after the first couple of very straightforward courses, Phan does something different to each course that reflects what he thinks is the best thing for that fish. It might be charred a little, or aged in a certain way, or topped with a Japanese fish sauce different from the Vietnamese kind, or a reduction of the shrimp shells that he made himself. There’s a beef nigiri at the end where it’s sous-vided in its own fat to keep the beefy funk, and then served with horseradish instead of the real wasabi he’s been grating in front of you all night, and it’s like the best roast beef sandwich you’ve ever had. He’s thoughtful about each course in a way that goes beyond simply buying very high quality fish (though it is).

So it’s something different, and wonderful, and worth the price. Don’t hesitate.

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