Eric Webber (former general manager at Les Nomades and Cucina Bella), with partners Doug and Carolyn Hamrick and chef Jephanie Foster (Pepper Lounge), recently opened Saussy, an eclectic American place on West Grand. They've completely transformed the space, formerly Savannah, into a sleek romantic room with mirrors hanging above high-backed banquettes and wire-strung halogen lights that give the space a cool glow. While the design is eye-catching, the real attraction is the food. Starters might include an almond-crusted quail breast set on a bed of curried couscous dressed with red peppers, carrots, cilantro, and a Vietnamese Sriracha chili sauce that gives it a piquant kick. Plump, tender steamed mussels are served in a perfectly balanced ginger-coconut cream with hints of kafir lime leaf, lemongrass, and Thai red curry. The sesame-crusted seared tuna is refreshing, fanned out on a salad of daikon, cucumber, and seaweed. The curried asparagus soup goes lightly on the curry and bursts with natural flavor. Entrees have various global influences--chipotle-crusted lamb and pork tenderloin, for example--several medallions of both meats artfully placed over a poblano, corn, and black bean polenta cake and surrounded by dollops of charred tomato salsa and basil-cilantro pesto. Meat lovers can't go wrong with the grilled filet mignon stacked on a scallion-potato croquette (crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside) served with Dijon-Gorgonzola compound butter and garnished with delicate fiddlehead ferns and asparagus tips. The ginger-vanilla creme brulee provides a luscious, satiny smooth finish. The restaurant is currently BYO, but the owners are hoping to secure a liquor license by late June. Saussy, 1156 W. Grand, 312-491-1122.
Michael Morton and Scott DeGraff (owners of Drink) have put together one stylish space for Nine, their new West Loop steak house. Nestled on the ground floor of a high-rise, the entrance is easy to miss but the place has been packed with trend hunters since the April opening. The cutting-edge but still elegant room is illuminated by sleek recessed lights in the domed ceiling, which cast a purple glow over silver leather chairs and mod suede couches in the lounge where you're sure to wait for a table. The ambience is a stark contrast to that of Morton's father's namesake establishment, but the fare here isn't all that different, it's just more extravagant. There's a 24-ounce bone-in rib eye, a 14-ounce veal porterhouse, and indulgences like caviar in savory miniwaffle cones, a daily oyster selection, and market-price lobster and Alaskan king crab. Chef Michael Shrader (under the direction of consulting chef Michael Kornick) shows ingenuity in dishes like sashimi Nine, a napoleon-like sampling of raw snapper, tuna, and salmon layered with crisp wontons and Asian greens and the meaty Chilean sea bass (a bit oily) wrapped in pancetta and served on a luscious bed of mashed celeriac with earthy black trumpet mushrooms and leeks in a pink peppercorn sauce with a hint of white truffle oil. The well-selected wine list ranges from affordable to downright decadent. Nine, 440 W. Randolph, 312-575-9900.
On May 4 Jeffrey Woods quietly opened voltaire, a cabaret and restaurant in the Halsted Street space formerly occupied by Madam B. (no relation to the recently shuttered Voltaire on Clark). The decor hasn't changed much--the lighting is still sultry and mirrors surround the south dining room, but now there's a stage nestled in back where cabaret acts appear nightly: Amy Armstrong and Freddy Allen headline on Mondays, Wednesday nights are comedy night, and the Voltaire Troupe performs a musical revue on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The upscale American fare by Daniel Blejski, a five-year veteran of the Union League Club, includes pasta, steaks, and several fish options in straightforward preparations. Starters include a crisp, sweet Asian apple, spinach, and frisee salad with toasted pecans and Gorgonzola in a peppered bacon vinaigrette, and a grilled vegetable and goat cheese napoleon drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Intriguing entrees include a hazelnut-crusted chicken breast with a spicy three-mustard sauce and sun-dried cherry and jicama slaw, seared ahi tuna with sticky rice and vegetables in a ginger-pepper butter sauce, and a classic roast Australian lamb chop with dauphinoise potatoes and a lemon-thyme demiglace. Voltaire's grand opening is Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, with two performances each night by Phyllis Diller. The first night is a benefit for the Names Project and advance tickets are required; the second night is open to all, first come, first served. Voltaire, 3441 N. Halsted, 773-281-9320.
Jacky Pluton (Carlos) reopened Jacky's Bistro at 2545 Prairie in Evanston on May 26.
Terry Alexander's new venture, MOD., opens June 9 at 1520 N. Damen, in the space formerly occupied by Sunset.
Jody Andre, owner of Tomboy, plans to open a fondue restaurant on Broadway this fall.
--Laura Levy Shatkin
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eugene Zakusilo.