Sula Strolls Memory Lane at Pasteur; Vettel Touts Brunches at BLT And Others
There are two mysteries at the heart of Mike Sula's review of Pasteur— whatever happened to Pasteur, and whatever happened to Eric Aubriot, now working in the reopened Pasteur's kitchen? He takes us on a tour of why the questions matter: "I woke up, culinarily speaking, for the second time in 1998... [I] had my first taste of wine- braised beef cheeks at a new French restaurant in Lincoln Park called Aubriot, named for the chef as well as his wife at the time, who ran the front of the house... a piece of meat slow-cooked so lovingly that its melting texture was indistinguishable from its deep beefy flavor, in perfect harmony with whatever red I was drinking. It was one of my first lessons in the metamorphosis of a seemingly humble piece of flesh into something sublime... [Pasteur] had risen from the ashes of a fire and moved to new quarters in Edgewater, where it was serving authentic but refined Vietnamese food in a gorgeous setting that summoned the dissipated tropical elegance of colonial Indochina."
So he's kindly disposed to the results of a French-Vietnamese collaboration at a reopened Pasteur even as he finds it more of a botch than not: "It doesn't seem that Aubriot makes a very strong statement at all, and based on the French dishes I tried, his influence on the kitchen operation seems to be far too minimal as well. On a slow night I was served the most wretched foie gras I've ever encountered—overseared slices of lobe, singed and wrinkled, posed sadly in the center of a port wine reduction. Ashes in the mouth." As for the Vietnamese side: "While it's rarely amusing to see street food treated (and priced) as if it's more rarefied than it is, Pasteur's rice flour crepe takes this to a level that's hilarious. A respectably crispy if understuffed banh xeo—enfolding shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, redolent of coconut, and goldened by turmeric arrives with its customary herbal garnishes. First the server delivers a remedial lesson in wrapping portions in lettuce, 'like an Asian taco,' then proceeds to cut it with knife and fork into manageable portions as if boning sole Meunière for Julia Child at La Couronne." [Reader]
Sula also had a blog post Monday about one of the little secrets of the food scene, which is that Schaumburg, epicenter of plastic American chain dining, is where the action increasingly is for Indian food as all those second-generation Indian doctors and accountants settle in the burbs. He checks out a rapidly-spreading Indian chain, Sankalp. While admitting that he doesn't know if "there's a certain group of Indians in the northwest burbs who look at it with scorn, the way the militant-class Western foodlum repudiates the Olive Garden," he's impressed by the trademark dosa, "very fresh, paper-thin and crispy, made to order and served with small cups of sambar or rasam for dipping. They bode well for the all-you-can-eat dosa nights on Thursdays, on which you can customize your own from a buffet for $10.99." [Bleader]
David Tamarkin comes to Bar Ombra, the new space carved out of Acre next to Anteprima, with bar food expectations, despite decor that screams full-fledged restaurant, and is happy enough with the ciccheti-style buffet of Italian snacks: "There’s a small comfort in coming across a bad dish at Ombra: The portions are slight and there’s always something else on the table. If you make sure to have in front of you the baccala frittole (well-fried balls of salt cod that don’t skimp on the funk), or a few oysters, or the sweet roasted onions, or the 'eggs tonnato' (where hard-boiled eggs are plated atop a smooth tuna puree) or the creamy pork liver pâté, or the plate of tender short ribs, there will always be something to clear your palate of that cabbage, or to liven it up after a boring bite of a mushroom-pesto panino or truffle-egg tramezzini." [TOC]
It's lonely being the only guy who didn't excoriate BLT American Brasserie, but Phil Vettel doubles down and includes them in his brunch roundup, putting a positive spin on the lack of crowds so far calling it "sedate and sophisticated," with particular praise for "out-of-this-world, crispy-edged pancakes" and the bread basket, which he calls a "virtual cornupcopia" (if it has food in it, isn't it an actual cornucopia?) He's skeptical about the value of all-you-can-drink champagne for one hour for $26, at least. Other spots he mentions include North Pond ("it's hard to imagine a more perfect brunch setting"), Old Town Social ("Best of the bunch might be the BLT benedict ($9), a buttermilk biscuit topped with smoked pork belly, poached egg, peppery arugula and roasted-tomato hollandaise"), and Sprout, which he praises for the novelty of its "nothing-quite-as-it-seems menu" which "uses more air quotes than a bad standup comic." [Tribune]
Our reviews of several places including Storefront Company, Urban Union, Yusho and others appear here.