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Chef Brian Greene has spent much of his career at North Shore restaurants such as Abigail's American Bistro. But at the Savoy, the Wicker Park restaurant and absinthe bar where Mike Sula ventures this week, he's focused on seafood, offering a diversity of options and influences. Things get off to a less than auspicious start with the raw bar's oysters on the half shell, devoid of briny liquor, and an expensive and miserly portion of geoduck overwhelmed by pickled plum. The kitchen does better with oysters Rockefeller and an outstanding bowl of sunray venus clams with chorizo and piquillo peppers in an absinthe-spiked broth. Fish entrees are interestingly accented, steaky grilled sturgeon with a creamed-corn sauce and oyster mushrooms, halibut with black rice, blistered shisito peppers, and Chinese broccoli. And while an absinthe-tied cocktail list may seem commercially risky, bartender Deidre Hays, a talking library of the spirit's lore, makes the collection of nearly 50 types accessible. The engaging staff helps as well.
In Key Ingredient, the Hopleaf's Ben Sheagren, challenged with coffee, tries to tame its bitterness by incorporating it into a dry rub for rack of lamb, which he served roasted with a lamb-espresso jus and sides of carrot puree, glazed fennel bulb, and braised pear. Next up is Urban Union chef-owner Michael Shrader, working with curly parsley, in Sheagren's words, "probably the most overused, abused, and taken-for-granted ingredient and garnish that has ever hit a plate."