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Review Tue Aug 19 2008

Icosium Kafe Revisited

IMG_0411Seeking a northern escape from downtown Air & Water Show crowds, foodie partner-in-crime Jamie and I found ourselves at Andersonville's Algerian crepe joint, Icosium Kafe. Opened in spring 2007 as the second outpost of the eatery's mother ship down the street in Lincoln Park, Drive-Thru first dropped in last November and found the place to plate up some out-of-the-ordinary crepe creations.

More used to the thickly sauced, velvety goodness found inside French- or Québécois-style crepes, I reserved judgment for the vegetable-heavy Algerian variety I was about to experience. The menu offers more than half-a-dozen savory and sweet crepes all for under $10.

Choose the savories according to the themed veggie filling of your choice -- the Iberica offers a mix of olive tapenade, tomatoes, pistachios, pineapple, cilantro, scallion and ricotta cheese; the Greek come with feta, olives, almonds and roasted garlic. Then add your favorite protein (chicken and Halal merguez lamb sausage were no surprise here, escargots raised our collective eyebrows).

Just don't order the same protein I do if we're out together at an eatery I intend to write about. Jamie visibly recoiled as I yelled at the waitress not to honor his order of, "I'll have the same thing he's having." We eventually opted for two soups and two savory crepes.

I had a yen for the Egyptian mango juice prominent on the menu. "I'm sorry, sir, it's from Mexico today," said the consistently eager server as I settled for water, instead. Not a bad choice, it's cucumber water here, a personal favorite of mine that I usually enjoy on my weekend brunch jaunts to Orange on Harrison in my downtown 'hood.

Jamie's cream of mushroom soup was buttery heaven, heavy with the flavor of the yummy fungus and in need of no assistance. My vegetable puree on the other hand (I should have known from the name alone) was so nondescript, I had to ask exactly what vegetables were in it. The answer--mostly potatoes with almost no seasoning--sounded as uninspiring as it tasted.

IMG_0421I fared far better when the crepes arrived. My Icosium (pictured) was unexpectedly lush. Warmed goat cheese created an ad hoc sauce for the filling of adequately flavorful turkey breast, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, Roma tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic, spinach and arugula, while the organic-white-flour crepe delivered enough resistance to the bite to make for a satisfying counterpoint to the softly luxurious interior goods. My only quibble: the obviously from-a-jar peppers made the whole affair a bit too oily.

Jamie's Marrakech proved aptly named. The crepe arrived unduly arid -- a light hand with the promised cream cheese left the caramelized onions to do hopeless double-duty as lubrication for the remaining mix of toasted almonds, raisins, spinach, sun-dried tomato and tapenade, although the Halal merguez was admirably garlic-spicy. "You should have let me order yours," he said, as we traded forkfuls from our respective plates.

IMG_0428Dessert (pictured) promoted no such lament. We shared the Bananas Foster and Clark sweet crepe (get it?), a special the night we were there. Warmed banana and strawberry slices were smothered in a gooey rosewater reduction, the plate dressed with a scoop of Petersen's vanilla ice cream and multiple dollops of whipped cream to ensure a sugar coma for diners foolhardy enough to attempt to eat the whole thing by themselves. Nothing was special enough about it, though, to justify the $11.95 price tag -- almost twice the price of comparable sweet crepes on the regular menu and even more expensive than the entrees.

Delicately fragrant Algerian mint tea, served in a silver pot with a red-hot handle (they wrap a napkin around it to avoid diners a nasty surprise), helped cut the sweet and provided a lighter alternative to European and Turkish coffee variations also on the menu.

I'd go back for the savory crepes, but the sweet ones definitely make Icosium a seductive dessert place to hit up after dinner at longer-standing Andersonville stalwarts like Calo or Andie's. That's of course if you can drag yourself away from the puffy pastry delights up the street at Taste of Heaven. And that's never an easy feat for Yours Truly.

Icosium Kafe
5200 N. Clark Street, 773-271-5233

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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