1952 N. Damen
Open just over two weeks in the tiny two-story Bucktown house previously occupied by Glory, SCYLLA is full of promise. Chef Stephanie Izard, a vet of Spring and La Tache, executes the ambitious seafood-oriented menu with expertise. Crisp sauteed veal sweetbreads done Mediterranean style with braised greens, sweet currants, and toasted pine nuts made an impressive first course; the grilled baby octopus salad, full of arugula and mint leaves, tasted green and fresh, but the octopus was chewy and fatty, in need of a few more minutes in the pan. The celeriac soup was decadently creamy and perfectly smooth. Izard serves whatever fish is fresh; on a recent evening it was Hawaiian ono, which came to the table topped with a salty brandade (whipped-potato-and-salt-cod spread) and surrounded by a medley of colors, flavors, and textures: slightly charred roasted brussels sprouts, earthy wild mushrooms, tart dried cherries, and crunchy almonds. The skate wing was encrusted in crispy dried potato flakes, marked with a zigzag of spicy tomato aioli, and set on a big pile of charred radicchio, seared calamari, grape tomatoes, capers, and a few too many garbanzo beans. Portions are ample and priced accordingly--most entrees cost in the low-to-mid-20s.
3103 N. Narragansett
The pan-Asian RED GINGER packs a lot of bang for the buck--almost everything on the 84-item menu costs ten dollars or less, and even the higher-priced things are worth it. Like the roasted duck with blackberry sauce on the "Chef Special" menu: for $10.95 you get half a roasted duck, crispy on the outside and ultratender inside, covered with a fruit sauce more savory than sweet and accompanied by a heap of gently steamed broccoli, red and green peppers, green beans, and onions. The chive dumplings (a $4.25 starter) are steamed then fried to a crispy brown and come with a sweet, dark soy sauce. The som tum (green papaya salad) gets the usual crushed peanuts and vinegar-based dressing, but Red Ginger's version sets off the tangy papaya with sweet, ripe diced mango and juicy green apple slices. Served with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice, the tom kha ta-lay (hot and sour soup) makes a light but safisfying meal--the broth is spiked with coconut milk, lemongrass, and ginger and full of shrimp, crab, scallops, and squid. Pad kee mao, or stir-fried chewy noodles tossed with Thai basil, bean sprouts, and onion, comes with your choice of chicken, beef, tofu, vegetables, or, for an extra $2, half a dozen big, fresh shrimp. The $5.95 lunch special includes soup, salad, appetizer, and entree. Red Ginger is BYO; any sparkling wine would work well with most of the menu, as would a light red such as a Cru Beaujolais or an Oregon pinot noir.
Kizoku Sushi & Sake Lounge
358 W. Ontario
Heat's Kee Chan designed the menu at KIZOKU SUSHI & SAKE LOUNGE; it's being executed by chef Melvin Vizconde. The space, formerly home to Savor, is full of alluring details--a red chandelier and an enclosed waterfall in the entryway, a huge light fixture above the dining room holding a circle of drum-shaped lamps. The lounge in the back has a blue-backlit bar, bright red leather booths, and on weekends a DJ. The menu plays with traditional Japanese preparations, with a few creative twists--six plump oversize scallops are dusted in panko, seared, and lightly dressed with a lemony soy sauce and butter; in the king crab salad, plump, meaty crabmeat is rolled inside thin sheets of cucumber and served with a sweet, tangy seaweed salad. Buttery o-toro, the very best grade of tuna belly, is occasionally offered in generous slices as sashimi or nigiri. Ocean-fresh suzuki (sea bass), tasty but not nearly so tender, is almost always available. There are close to two dozen maki, including chef's specials like the Turtle Roll (with rice on the outside, eel and crisp tempura on the inside, topped with a thin slice of shrimp, green wasabi-infused flying-fish roe, and a dollop of creamy wasabi sauce). Hot dishes include grilled lamb chops in a dark plum sauce and a disappointingly tough Kobe steak in a rich cherry sauce. There's a long list of sakes and martinis; the wine list is limited to about 20 selections, most available by the bottle or the glass.
Other Recent Openings
Ben's Noodles and Rice, 1139 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-907-8936. Cheap neighborhood Thai.
Golden Budha, 312 W. Randolph, 312-609-0000. Chinese steak house from Alfred Hsu (Szechwan East).
Indian Grill, 2258 N. Clark, 773-477-8000. Classic northern Indian food, with an emphasis on clay-oven cooking.
Karyn's Cooked, 738 N. Wells, 312-587-1050. Karyn Calabrese (of the raw-food emporium Karyn's Fresh Corner) applies heat to her vegan palette.
MK North, 305 Happ, Northfield: Closing Saturday, February 26, after dinner. Reopening Tuesday, March 1, as an Italian grill, A Milano.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/A. Jackson.