When chef Rob Shaner announced in December that he’d be opening his first restaurant, he envisioned an elegant, intimate space with a refined French tasting menu where diners could linger without feeling pushed out the door. As of March, however, lengthy dinners with friends over bottles of wine are but a distant memory, and Shaner (Royal Grocer, the Kennison) had to make significant adjustments to his highly anticipated North Center spot due to the pandemic. The fruits of his labor, Robert Et Fils, opens Friday with a takeout family-style menu of dishes that weave classic French gastronomy with modern techniques and American “playfulness.”
Shaner, pastry chef Cati Molnar (the Kennison, Lost Larson), and GM/beverage director Rami Ezzat (Boka Restaurant Group) will offer one regularly-changing $80 menu for two on Thursdays through Saturdays. Each new menu will feature a poultry, fish, or vegetarian option, with no overlap from prior offerings. Patrons must place orders 48 hours in advance via Tock. Wine and cocktails will also be available for takeout. It’s in the space previously occupied by Kitsune, the Japanese-inspired restaurant from decorated chef Iliana Regan that closed in 2019.
The restaurant’s introductory offerings include poulet roti (roasted chicken, preserved lemon stuffing, picholin olives), terrine de foie de volaille (chicken liver mousse, fennel salad, seasonal mostarda), and more. Each meal comes with bread — the opening menu feature a full baguette with cultured butter — along with a shared dessert, such as this week’s Galette aux Fruits (tarragon puff pastry, seasonal fruits, buttermilk creme anglaise).
The takeout menu is meant to evoke the sort of meal one might have at a French home, Molnar and Ezzat, who has also lived in France, told the Tribune. The team designed the original tasting menu to offer a slightly more substantial portion in each course than the typical single-bite serving, they say, so stretching the notion to a full to-go meal made sense.
Robert Et Fils, which translates to “Robert and Son,” is a tribute to Shaner’s father, Bob, who died in 2008. Bob Shaner’s work brought the family to Paris for a few years in the mid-90s, where Rob Shaner encountered French cuisine for the first time. It was a revelatory experience for a young man from Missouri who grew up eating processed food, he said when the opening was first announced. He’s since worked for acclaimed local chefs including Chris Pandel (Cira) and John Manion (El Che Steakhouse).
The Robert Et Fils team hopes to introduce patio dining in the foreseeable future, and are plotting daytime operations as a bakery with coffee, breakfast, lunch, and pastries. The city’s 25 percent capacity cap on indoor dining is keeping the 26-seat indoor space closed, but Shaner says he may be able to start dining room service once the city allows him to fill half his seats, according to the Trib.