A year after it launched, Intro, the rotating chef restaurant in the former L2O space, is retooling if not entirely reconcepting. Stephen Gillanders, the guest chef in winter 2015, has joined Intro as executive chef, overseeing future guest chefs (starting with Jessica Largey, whose menu launched this week), offering an a la carte menu to which the guest chef will offer additions.

Some saw this as the end of Intro’s innovative rotating chef-tasting menu concept, and it’s not exactly that, but it’s clear that Intro didn’t draw the attention of, say, Next’s rotating cuisine concept, and Intro may have overestimated the interest in tasting menus in the city—even though Intro’s were hardly the long, drawn-out affairs that others can be. But people apparently showed a preference for choosing their own dinner, and it may also be that Intro demonstrated that even Beard-acclaimed chefs with Top Chef exposure from other cities aren’t that big a draw for Chicagoans. At least without some media support to help diners understand what was so different each time—yes, Phil Vettel reviewed it each time, which is a big deal, but after that there really wasn’t much coverage of individual menus or chefs; Intro needed a full-strength print Time Out Chicago obsessing over each variation, circa 2010, and is left at a disadvantage in today’s thinned-out media scene.

So now it becomes more of a conventional restaurant in a handsome room, with the visiting chef the icing on the cake—while Gillanders makes sure it makes money. With luck this can still offer the creative variety of Intro, while finding the audience to enjoy it.


Mike Sula’s review of Band of Bohemia gets derailed in the comments over a joke—he calls it the center of the “Black Food Matters” movement, a reference to the use of squid ink to make the plates look a bit Goth (after all, chef de cuisine Kevin McMullen came up with the Murder Splatter, so that’s only to be expected). Sula has a point to make: “at Band of Bohemia it illustrates a broader style at play: a heavy reliance on abstraction the result of which is that each element of a dish is delicious in its own right, but the sheer number occasionally stunts overall cohesion.”


In retrospect you coulda guessed it: Knife will be the name of the Lincoln Square neighborhood steakhouse with a sustainability bent from the owners of Fork, which I wrote about in embryo here. More details on the announcement here, including the best news: that Jason Prah, whose Bascule just closed, will be GM and wine guy.


Michael Nagrant in Redeye finds things to like and things not to like at Michael Sheerin’s Hyde Park dumpling house Packed: “The pastrami dumpling burst with peppery spice and had the essence of a good deli sandwich. Pickled tomato sprinkled around the dumpling provided a zingy swoosh of acidity that cut through the richness of the meat. But the butternut squash dumpling, plated on pureed squash, reminded me of a Gerber baby food giveaway.” Mainly though, it sounds like he found you should wait a couple of months: “a third of the dumplings I tried were raw at the seams.”


Crains’ Graham Meyer reviews lunch at La Sirena Clandestina now that it faces the Google hordes next door: “The Brazilian beef ($12) riffs on Italian beef, piling roasted tri-tip sirloin and house giardiniera on a roll. In contrast with the sloppy classic, this beef gains a spicy aged cheddar spread and carries less jus—not to mention the roll isn’t dipped in it—so the sandwich won’t mar anyone’s French cuffs, not that anyone in the dressed-down crowd looks likely to own any. The Bahian seafood roll ($14), consisting of a heavily toasted split-top bun filled with mahi mahi, shrimp and squid and swimming in slaw, similarly paints a lobster roll a sharp new color.”


It’s way cool that Swift & Sons created a list of vintage wines by birthday years. John Lenart talks about that—and also the hefty markups on those wines—with Kevin Boehm and somm Marcello Cancelli. (Chicagoist)


Taco Bell has a new taco and the Tribune is on it! Because we were all talking about that during the Super Bowl, right? Anyone?


Did you know there’s a Black Restaurant Week? Me neither, but Monica Eng reported on the dozen or so mostly south side restaurants trying to build community support by starting one this year. (WBEZ)


The documentary co-directed by ex-Trib writer Kevin Pang about Grace chef Curtis Duffy is now on iTunes; Joe Campagna reviewed it for Fooditor here.


Mike ate nothing new. On the other hand, somehow I have managed to eat at both Billy Goat and Gino’s East in the last month or so, and can report that they remain terrible and only for tourists. It’s good to check every decade or so to make sure certain opinions still hold…