Reservations are live for Pacific Standard Time, chef Erling Wu-Bower’s (Nico Osteria) hotly-anticipated, California-styled restaurant hinged on seasonal, open-hearth cookery, in conjunction with partner Joshua Tilden and One Off Hospitality pros Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia, and Terry Alexander. Claiming the 8,000-square-foot River North space that formerly housed Tavernita, PST is fated to debut the week of April 30.
Wu-Bower — who had originally planned to open PST with former Publican executive chef Cosmo Goss prior to his abrupt One Off departure — says his menu is “inspired by the way I grew up cooking with my mom.” That translates to an ingredient-driven collection of global flavors that still feels American. Think pizzas and flatbreads, like a not-so-classic margherita dressed with tomato, mozzarella, preserved fresno chile, and pistachio pesto; and baked pita served with green chickpea hummus, marinated albacore tuna, urfa pepper, and mint.
Everyone on the team is excited to show off PST’s oak wood-fueled hearths, of which there are two, hand-built by Montreal-based mason Alex Chernov. While Wu-Bower will use one oven for grilling meat, fish, and vegetables — like braised pork shoulder with ramen broth, and a fennel and mushroom-infused whole Mount Lassen trout — he’s reserving the second oven for those aforementioned breads.
Centered on seasonal California cookery, Wu-Bower’s menu will change daily, and embrace locally sourced product — when the season permits — alongside California-grown ingredients. And he’s looking to top Golden State purveyors, like strawberry seller Harry’s Berries. Beloved for the Oxnard farm’s deeply flavor-concentrated fruit, Harry’s Berries strawberries will hit tables as a starter and be served with burrata, snap peas, sumac, and a parsley-lemon vinaigrette. Other appetizers include palm sugar, lime, and red curry-laced chicken wings, and roasted asparagus with black garlic molasses. Tilden says that the menu speaks to “the way people are eating now,” so think of it as a bit more health-conscious, with extra focus on prime produce.
Clad with 189 seats — 20 of which will be at the bar — plus a private dining room for 62 and a 32-seat patio, PST is an ambitious project whose size, Alexander admits, initially concerned him. However, after reviewing the area’s development map (right around West Erie Street and North LaSalle Drive), he learned that several new residential buildings are underway, “which means a huge influx of people living within a block or two of the restaurant.” And Alexander believes that these forthcoming residents are the ideal audience for PST, which he characterizes as “a neighborhood restaurant where you could stop in for a drink one night, have dinner at the bar another, or meet friends and family for dinner.”
And with just a few weeks until its debut, the restaurant is coming together. Wu-Bower describes PST’s interior, designed by New York City-based creative firm Parts and Labor (which also helmed aesthetics for Boleo, the Latin American rooftop bar/restaurant inside the Kimpton Gray), as “timeless,” while Tilden says the goal was to build a “light and airy space.” The kitchen and central hearth will serve as the eatery’s focal point, and infuse a sense of soulfulness into the space.
As for any reshaping between now and earlier this year when Goss dropped out from the project, Wu-Bower confirms that, conceptually, PST remains the same. However an amended kitchen crew has, indeed, lead to an altered menu. Over the last few months the team has brought on a number of new hires, including former Grace pastry chef Natalie Saben, and general manager Adrianne Blonn, who moves to PST from Publican Tavern at O’Hare International Airport. Additionally, in the kitchen one will find executive sous chef Ben Truesdell, also of the Publican family.
PST will serve dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Once dinner runs smoothly, expect brunch to follow, and eventually lunch, too.