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Tuesday, December 10

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Openings Fri Mar 02 2012

My Rock & Roll Experience at Nellcôte's Pre-Opening Party

I expected Nellcôte's VIP soiree that I attended this past Tuesday to be a sexy event, and when I walked past the wall of lavender through the wrought iron gate archway and got my first glimpse of the interior, I was glad I had switched my riding boots for heels. Sexy it was. The team behind Old Town Social has transformed the former site of Marche into an elegance meets rock and roll concept, a far cry from its predecessor, and the result is a Chicago version of sexy that calls upon LA's Bar Mamout. The signature aesthetic of at least 10 chandeliers lining the ceiling immediately grabs your attention, while the orange halo-backlit bar looks exactly like the place you would hope to be picked up by Ryan Gosling dressed in a Ralph Lauren suit. No doubt it's a seen and be seen place. The restaurant is divided by a downstairs and a slight upstairs that is more casual. Several hidden two-tops set up theatre-style in the balcony corners add a whimsical effect to the traditional restaurant layout.

I didn't know what to expect from the food side but I figured any restaurant on Randolph and a project of Jared Van Camp was going to be aiming high. I first tried a bite-sized taste of pickled salmon with a side of raisins and pine nuts presented on top of a coulis. The combination of pickled salmon next to crunchy pine nut was... different, and I'd like to offer it another opportunity to try it in its entirety. I next tried a warm white asparagus soup shooter with black truffles that reinforced my love for all things green and fungi. It had just the right amount of punch and flavor. There was some sort of foie gras paté that I unfortunately never got my hands on but here's where I got confused, and as Serious Eats mentions that "it is easy to get confused about the concept, which aims to mix fine dining with an irreverent attitude."

Thin crust Neapolitan-style pizza. Huh?

Circulating among the scene of flashy elegance and style was also... pizza. Not even the more sophisticated cousin, flatbread, but straight up 10 inch pizzas. Apparently Jared Van Camp likes his milled flour, and maybe just all things European, so I'm guessing that's where the inspiration for pizza comes from -- but pizza and foie gras? I guess it wouldn't be the first time I had been confused. It's too early to say what Nellcôte will do for Randolph's reputation as a food authority but it's no doubt it will be a popular joint this spring. With a menu under $30 and an interior that makes you feel like you're actually in the mix, I'd recommend checking it out. It bills itself as French American and the soundtrack of Black Keys and everything non-103.5 makes you forgive them for putting pizza next to sweetbreads. But if the fusion of southern Italy and south France and the revival of bohemian chic is your thing, this could be your next dream.

Nellcôte (833 W. Randolph St.) is open for business as of today and reservations can be made at Opentable or 312-432-0500.

 
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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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