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Review Mon Mar 26 2012

Review: Storefront Company

salmonStorefront.bmpOpening up in the Flat Iron building on the southwest corner of North, Damen, and Milwaukee, the Storefront Company made its debut earlier this month looking to make its name as a mainstay at the fast moving corners in the heart of Bucktown-Wicker Park.

Last weekend, I was invited to check out the self-claimed "farm cuisine | modern cooking" spot which has the feel of a modern California bistro. Stark black and white decor is softened by sectioned banquets, modern exposed lighting and attentive service. Brought to you by the folks behind Debonair Social Club, a dance party-no tell hall just around the corner, Chef Bryan Moscatello holds the reigns in the kitchen, and while new to Chicago, he's no stranger to the back of the house. He received Food & Wine's best new chef in 2003 and since then has been Executive Chef at Stir Food Group, receiving "Top Table" from Bon Appetit.

Storefront holds a lot of promise, considering they've got the folks who know how to bring the party, and a chef who has cooked and starred around the country, but as newbies to the Chicago game, I think we need a bit more.

What looked like a promising cocktail menu faltered at first chance. In a city where egg whites and handmade bitters have practically been the norm, I've forgotten that cocktails can fail. Storefront's Moscow Mule was much too sweet, and lacked the iconic acid chill that mules should have. The "Flip," a blending of sherry, egg white, simple syrup and nutmeg, was just boring. A three-ingredient $12 cocktail would have cut it in this city once upon a time but things have changed.

Their beet-cured salmon and lamb meatball appetizers were a welcome recovery. The salmon is house-cured in coriander and beets, piled neatly atop house made brioche cups and fennel jam. Lamb meatballs are tiny but potent: freshly ground lamb, pine nuts, currants with tomato sofrito. These five tiny bites were probably my favorites of the entire meal.

At every restaurant, it's essential to figure out which restaurant staff know the menu and which don't. The glass of white wine which was served with the salmon made it abundantly clear: it was the sommelier who knew the food and paired it appropriately, not the bartender. Word to the wise: just ask for Johnny's advice, and he'll take perfect care of you.

Rabbit rossini, a classic preparation garnished with foie gras, shaved black truffles and madeira demi-glace, was nicely executed, but garnished with visually appealing but seriously misplaced coriander flowers. While bringing color to the plate, they also brought a bright bitterness that destroyed the mellow roundness that foie and truffle combined can bring. The confited rabbit was "formed into a log," a regrettable choice of phrase that our server uttered three times! Forgive me, but log-like meats are not farm cuisine nor modern cooking, and should never be described as such at a restaurant.

Again, the sommelier stepped in to save the moment. I had two entrees sitting before me and nothing to drink. The duck, a preparation of pan-fried duck breast, leg confit "formed into a log" (that makes three) and Parisian gnocchi was perfectly executed but short changed. Large raw blackberries were too seedy and garishly cold against the meat and would have been better paired as compote or jam. The confit leg's unfortunate molded form caused it to lose all of the drippy, meltable quality that confit should have. In fact, the same goes for the log of rabbit from the earlier course. The Whole Hog is just as it sounds: a smattering of preparations using different parts of the pig. Corn-crusted liver served with apple butter was perfect; pork tenderloin served over grilled eggplant and white truffle was sufficient; the sausage, a kicky garlic-red pepper-fennel blend, was way over salted; and the crepe filled with jerk-rubbed ham hock and offal was unmemorable.

After dinner, I found myself thinking as I had earlier in the evening: we live in a city with palatial restaurants built to honor different parts of the animal. We have grown accustomed to snout and tail and ears and are more adventurous than Chef Moscatello gives us credit for. Additionally, excellent food so often rests in the small details: the garnish and seasoning need to finish the dish.

At our server's recommendation, we revisited the cheese course portion of the menu for dessert and finished the night with chevre with honey-braised beets, walnut cake and balsamic and a creamy, smooth house-made butternut squash gelato. Both were delicious.

I'm not ready to write off Storefront, but in a city that's bursting at the seams with farm-to-table cuisine executed with precision and stellar cocktail programs (no matter what the Reader says), we just don't have a ton of patience for a missteps and boring food. With a little tweaking, Storefront could be a fantastic spot, but for now, grab a spot at the bar and stick with the wine, appetizers and desserts.

Storefront Company
1941 W. North Ave.
Reservations here

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Anne Beret / April 1, 2012 10:37 AM

I like Storefront restaurant. I haven't tried all of the dishes. More expensive the liquor, more expensive the drink is generally how it goes though.

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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...
Read this feature »

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