Steve Plotnicki is the owner of New York-based fine dining site Opinionated About and many in the food world dislike him. Me, I enjoy his larger-than-life braggadocio about food, we need more people who say what they think without worrying about access to fancy chefs, and so I happily went to dinner with him and others at Hanbun on Wednesday. On Thursday, he started the evening at Roister. It did not go well. You have to be his Facebook friend to read it all, but he didn’t like the loud atmosphere, saying “I can’t think of a worse environment to eat dinner in. Nick & Grant must be kidding. Anyone who needs to crank up the music this loud in their restaurant can’t have a lot of confidence in their food.”

Then he tried to get actual stemware, which Roister doesn’t have, for the wine they brought. “They had Champagne glasses that were dirty and needed to be sterilized. They were at a different location and they had to go get them.” So Plotnicki and party decided to leave. And Roister chef Andrew Brochu allegedly followed them out: “He starts accusing me of trashing his restaurant from the minute I walked in. All I was trying to do was leave and find another place to go but he kept hassling me. At that point I completely lost it on him and started screaming every epithet in the world at him. So the manager of the restaurant, who followed Andrew onto the street in order to be part of this confrontation, goes over to Mrs P and my other guests and threatens to call the police if they didn’t leave.”

In the end, they wind up at Boka and have a very nice meal, but Plotnicki goes on to have some choice words about how the Alinea guys can’t take criticism, in his mind, and others are afraid to cross them by speaking frankly about their places. And how was your Thursday night?

UPDATE: it continues here.


Next’s French Laundry meal, celebrating the restaurant when Achatz himself went there two decades ago, gets four stars from Phil Vettel: “Even for younger diners, the food at French Laundry — considered one of the world’s finest restaurants even back then — transcends the years, or at least demonstrates the extent to which Thomas Keller was ahead of his time… Conspicuous by its absence is any sort of culinary sleight-of-hand, for which Next is famous. This time around, there’s no centerpiece that turns out to be the dinner’s third course, no liquid element that arrives as a solid and vice versa. Courses arrive without misdirection or instructions.”

Here’s the thing, though. Vettel talks about enjoying Keller classics like Oysters and Pearls, to remind us what dining 20 years ago was, but the fact is—they’re still on the menu at French Laundry, too. That restaurant has its own nostalgia act, presenting things people have seen in Keller’s cookbook and expect to eat, so Next’s imitation of that 20-year-old dinner isn’t really taking you somewhere you can’t go anyway (if you can get in). To me, the Chicago version of a Napa restaurant’s reproduction of its own moment of inspiration long ago… well, I’m for all flavors of fun, if you want to stage a Roman orgy out of Apicius, go for it, but there are plenty of other, more interesting things happening on the scene now, the moment when Next was the place everybody had to know about and go was five years ago, and the moment when we needed a full review of every single Next meal over other things happening in Chicago has kind of passed, too.


Mike Sula has mixed feelings about Steadfast, item by item: “Dishes so irresistible you want to order them again are side by side with some so unappealing they’re difficult to look at.” But he finds it interesting that the partnership of chef Chris Davies and pastry chef Chris Teixeira favors the pastry side: “What’s most interesting to me about Steadfast is that Texeira, the beneficiary of a great deal of critical acclaim in the past, is given practically equal billing to Davies on the restaurant’s PR boilerplate and its menu. Thus the sweet foie bonbon that introduces things: a mouthful of creamy, rich, livery torchon, jacketed in a dark chocolate shell with a few squibs of orange puree and, to cement its place on the savory menu, a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s a deliciously weird way to start a session at Steadfast, and isn’t the first indicator of the pastry chef’s outsize influence on dinner.” (Reader)


“From the outside, Pleasant House Pub looks like a set piece from an English film where a bunch of blokes who have recently lost their jobs at the mill get soused on lager while crafting some kind of scheme in order to pull birds and avoid the dole,” says Michael Nagrant of the new Pleasant House inside the old Nightwood space. “Not all the pies are traditional British flavors. When I visited, the weekend special was filled with Asian barbecue pork and topped with ginger-maple slaw ($8.50), a tasty mash up of a potpie and pork bun. ‘We’ll pretty much stuff anything up in a pie,’ Art Jackson said. ‘We like to do flavors around holidays or events like the Olympics.’” (Redeye)


Riot Fest is over, but this guide to what to eat around Douglas Park is still a good little pocket guide to a strong neighborhood for Mexican food. (Reader)


The Trib published a whole book of pizza commentary that arrived with Sunday’s paper, but Buzz List is about things we can link to, so for now, read their daily pizza thing—it got me to try Nomad Pizza Co.’s Black and White, which was great.


The Filipino Seafood City is open and packed with Filipino-Americans. Chicagoist has a slide show. Korean super-grocer H Mart is coming to the west Loop! DNA Info has a little more.


Ina Pinkney’s breakfast column returns, and soul food breakfast is warm and loving at Peach’s: “The servers’ megawatt smiles were incomparable. Thoughtful and kind service made the delicious food even better.” Healthy eating option Left Coast’s review sounds, well, diplomatic (“Left Coast has real, fresh, healthy, interesting and delicious food, and while I didn’t try a smoothie, salad, grain bowl or wrap, I will.”) And she seemed pleased with Edgewater’s Kitchen Sink Cafe: “First bite was proof the cafe knows what it is doing; I had the other half of the sandwich the next day, and it was still delicious.”


Nobody really needed more than one good guess as to why Ryan Poli (Perennial, Tavernita, The Catbird Seat in Nashville) departed the Mercadito group, but he finally gets frank in this interview in Plate. It sounds a lot like the story of the indie filmmaker on his first big budget film, who finds the studio interfering so much that they figure out how to lose way more money than if they’d just left him alone:

“They beat the shit out of me. When sales started to dip, the investors started to blame me for the food; [they said] that that’s why people weren’t coming in. They turned the back room [of Tavernita] into a nightclub and they changed the concept. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was depressed. We had just opened a new restaurant, which was supposed to be a classic French bistro. I was excited about it. I wanted to make classic French food but as time went on, before we opened, it turned into an American bistro because they felt no one knew what French food was. It turned into a three-meal diner.” (That was Little Market Brasserie and yes, it sucked.)


Weirdest food story of the week: does Dick Portillo, who made a reported billion selling his eponymous chain, own a gold tooth belonging to WWII Admiral Yamamoto? (Tribune)


I had breakfast once at the highly obscure Mexican-run Brothers in Avondale; it was fine but didn’t lure me away from my regular cheap diner breakfast standby, Belmont Snack Shop. But Mike Sula finds a reason to be tempted in the chilaquiles: “Packed with medium-rare skirt steak niblets (for an upcharge), fluffy scrambled eggs, a veritable field of fluffy sopa de arroz, and a steaming cup of refried frijoles, this plate demands addressing long after all digestive real estate is occupied. For $9.99 it’ll ease your pain, and rock you back to sleep.”


As noted above, I had the tasting menu at Hanbun, and it was a delight. Strip mall kitchen table dining is the new storefront theater, and this was a parade of absolutely gorgeous dishes which combined delicate execution (chef David Park came from Alinea) with bright Korean flavors. I was charmed, the $63 price for a tasting menu is very reasonable, get your six to eight friends together and book it now. Steve Plotnicki liked it!