Rootstock opening chef Remy Ayesh is back at it, as she's joined River North mainstay Pops For Champagne as the restaurant's new executive chef, overhauling the menu there and at its beer-centric subterranean sibling Watershed. Ayesh, who also appeared in 2011 on Food Network's "Chopped," has been busy redesigning the kitchen at Pops where she'll offer a smaller menu of 13 to 15 items compared to the old menu of about 30 selections.
Ayesh wants the "food to match the service," as Pops' staff is recognized for their friendliness, especially when it comes to educating patrons about the intricacies of wine. They'll do away with the "pick three" charcuterie and cheese selections.
"That kind of put the decisions in the hands of our guests with seven cheese and eight items of charcuterie," Ayesh said. "Now we'll have a chef's charcuterie board which will be whatever I decide."
While there's no formal update on Pops' companion concept in Wicker Park, Bom Bolla, Ayesh's hiring represents a restored focus at Pops, which management recognized needed a bit of a jolt, she said. She's particularly excited for the uni and whipped lardo toast, a small bite that will "blow your mind." Other new items include bay scallops with caramelized peppers & shallots and yuzu & chili oil. The new menu will accommodate those who need a quick bite with and glass of bubbly and those who want a full meal.
Not to be overlooked, the Watershed's menu will include a grass-fed burger with cheddar blue and bacon aioli. That sounds familiar to the popular burger that Ayesh served at Rootstock. The beef will help keep drinkers in the basement full: "They need something richer, more substantial...but it's still a casual environment," Ayesh said. "If you want a burger downstairs, I'm giving you a burger."