Friday, May 29, 2009

Lula's Baby Sister


(via Yelp!)


When I first moved here almost four years ago I had all these grand culinary plans of scouring the city to sample some of the best dishes Chicago had to offer. That lasted about four months when I realized traveling on public transportation in the dead of winter wasn't all that pleasant, especially since I had a plethora of affordable Thai places in my neighborhood that let you bring in your own booze without a corkage fee. Sold and sold.

And although my wallet still doesn't allow me to go hog wild with my gastronomic choices, the coming of summer and a trip last night to the new Pilsen restaurant Nightwood has really reinvigorated my desire to seek out venues that have menu options not including "drunken" or "crazy" noodles.

As with any restaurant I got to, I'm there for the food sure, but what really gets me excited are the surroundings. The interior here is, in a word, gorgeous, and mixes modern pieces (the patio will no doubt be featured in Dwell shortly) with classic elements that, if not revolutionary, are executed perfectly. Andrew was immediately taken with the vintage orange leather swivel chairs seen above that were apparently purchased from a now defunct hotel - I need to know which one! - and I had a near-ecstatic experience when I got up to go to the bathroom post-meal where I found a copious use of chunky tone on tone picture molding, a black basin and commode, and hand-painted Mediterranean tile. Bravo Kevin Heisner (Nightwood's designer)... you've achieved perfection in the potty and I say this without a hint of irony.

In a nod to Big and Little Edie (isn't everything in life though?), Andrew and I shared the chicken liver pâté with garlic potato chips as an appetizer. I'd never really considered pâté as a dining option - it just doesn't come to mind on my list of wants - much less pâté and potato chips, but I was not disappointed. If you were to take a look inside my refrigerator, you'd realize my two main food groups consist of chicken and hummus, so anything that essentially combines them into one dish is perfection.

For our main courses we ordered Nightwood's spit-roasted half chicken with a bread, mustard and white bean salad - boring but delicious - and a vegetable and white bean panini on brioche with soft poached farm egg. I know... this is highly specific/bougie language. Each dish was relatively straightforward and unsurprising. That's not to say they were mediocre by any means, just not the pinnacle-pounding dishes you get at, say, Lula. I'm chalking this up, however, to the fact that Nightwood's still in its soft-opening first week and kinks will be worked out.

Oh, and did I mention the free wine? Not that that swayed my opinion whatsoever, but it was a nice touch. Apparently Thursday was Nightwood's final night without a liquor license so they were getting rid of their casks of amontillado or something. Gracious, yes, but will it ever happen again... highly unlikely.

In toto, Nightwood is not to be missed and a welcome addition to Pilsen. I say that as a non-resident who has probably spent a total of less than ten hours there in my life... and I stand by it completely.

Full menu below (changes daily):

Appetizers
Mixed lettuces with radish and croutons, dressed with olive oil and vinegar 8
Spinach and parmesan salad with cucumber, hard-cooked egg, and aged balsamic 10
Chicken liver pate with potato chips 10
Marinated beets with aged Sardinian goats cheese, pesto, and pinenuts 6
Beef carpaccio with sorrel, aioli, and ash-roasted beets 12
Deep-fried Mississippi prawns with bacon-sardine vinaigrette 13
Handcut pasta with morels and stewed beef 10
Green garlic and cream soup 8

Entrees
Wood-grilled cheeseburger with fries and a dill pickle 13
Spit-roasted half chicken with a bread, mustard, and white bean salad 20
Wood-grilled trout with lentils, ham hock, and cream 19
Roast beef sandwich with blue cheese, slaw, and fries 12
Vegetable and white bean Panini on brioche with a soft poached farm egg 12
Suckling pig and morel ravioli with spinach and green olives 20

Desserts
Strawberry sorbet with macerated berries 2.50 per scoop
Almond tart with creme caramel ice cream 8
pretzles and chocolate 7

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