Eater Chicago intern Jeffy Mai contributed this article.
Perennial Virant [Photo: Tim Hiatt]
Phil Vettel makes a trip to Perennial Virant, the recent collaboration between chef Paul Virant and the Boka Restaurant Group. He finds the menu reminiscent of Virant’s other restaurant Vie, with its farm-to-table offerings and homemade techniques giving the old Lincoln Park spot a reinvented feel. Vettel is blown away by the larger courses, unable to “find a large plate that didn’t wow [him].”
The pappardelle bolognese is “comfort-food heaven” and he gushes over the warm pretzel included with deviled eggs and spicy corn nuts in the bar snacks plate. All of this is bookended by pastry chef Elissa Narrow, who is in “fine form, as usual.” Her desserts include reimagined s’mores, a “beautiful” cookie plate and a bourbon-butterscotch cremeux, which alas, Vettel has been unable to try. [Trib]
The Pump Room’s newest reincarnation by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a far cry from his other celebrated restaurants, writes Michael Nagrant. Led by executive chef Bradford Phillips, the dishes are similar to Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen in New York but “the execution of them is not.” Nagrant describes the fried chicken breast as dry and the hot sauce butter parching his throat “like a spritz of napalm.” The oregano sprinkle on the oven-roasted lobster covering the “ammoniac waft coming off the carapace” is compared to cinnamon burned by Romans “to mask the stench of the deceased.” He also notes the long wait times between courses. Ouch. [Sun-Times]
Likewise, the “something-for-everyone” menu leaves Mike Sula with meals of “wildly divergent executions” at the Pump Room. Lowlights include shrimp mined with empty broken shells, calamari overfried to “ashlike consistency” and soggy pizza crust from undercooked mushrooms. Sula also remarks on pastry chef Kady Yon’s trio of doughnuts, which are “stale enough to choke on.” On the interior, he finds the new Pump Room a “democratization of luxury,” opening the doors to a denim-wearing crowd. [Reader]
Julia Kramer and David Tamarkin run around town trying the dessert menus at a few places. At Perennial Virant, Kramer finds the Concord-grape sorbet “unbelievably boring” but is pleasantly surprised by the chèvre fritters, stating, “In that moment, there were only fritters.” She also reflects on Sarah Jordan’s skills at GT Fish & Oyster, calling her desserts breezy and light but missing in personality. Tamarkin’s trip to Custom House Tavern brings on ice cream, panna cotta and pumpkin butter crêpes that are “simple but sophisticated enough not to be called rustic,” and flavors that are “nuanced without being challenging.” Rounding out the group is the “genius” frozen cucumber mousse and the caramelized brioche with sweet-tart gooseberries at Blackbird, which Tamarkin calls the most delicious French toast he’s ever had. [TOC]