Posts in the ‘Fulton Market’ Category

Publican, Fulton Market

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

he said:

After making our reservation months in advance, when it was finally time for our Friday date night at Publican, I was less than enthused. Summer was in full swing, and all I really wanted to do was have a low key dinner with my wife. Despite my desire to see what all the fuss was about, I just wasn’t in the mood for a fuss.

I didn’t want a scene. I just wanted something nice and relaxing. Turns out, Publican was the perfect place to go.

We sat outside on a night with perfect weather. We were away from the hubbub inside, and the meatpacking district, surprisingly, isn’t a bad place to be on a warm summer evening.

Making up for lost time

We started with a plate of pickles, and I was in love. The pickled cucumbers (most people call them pickles) were only okay. But the pickled asparagus and cauliflower were delightful. Sweet and surprising, I don’t know where these have been all my life.

Speaking of missing out on something, I’ve never had pork rinds. It wasn’t by accident, it was a conscious choice. But Publican is known for theirs so I had to try them. And I’m glad I did. They’re super crunchy with an awesome spicy salt rub and a texture that kind of reminded me of Cheetos. Only better. And louder. Did I mention they were crunchy?

Country Rib Confusion

For my main dish, I had the country ribs, which were unlike any rib I’d ever had. As in, I’m not sure they gave me the right dish. Who out there has had their ribs before? I expect ribs to show up in a neat line with a bit of meat between them. This cut reminded me more of a chop. Am I crazy, or did I get the wrong dish? Please, if you can, enlighten me.

That confusion not withstanding, my “ribs” were great. They had a salty and sweet sauce that worked perfectly.

If it’s a scene, it’s my kind of scene

I’m so glad we went. The food was on par with what I’d expect for a neighborhood swarming with foodies, but the atmosphere was much more low key and simple than I’d anticipated.   The food and drinks (and my wife’s company) were so spectacular that I would have enjoyed Publican even if it had been the scenester scene I was expecting. When I’m surrounded by such delicious treats, even the hugest of deals can’t distract me.*

*Cryptic, huh? Read on and you’ll understand.

she says:

If, ten years ago, someone had told me that they planned to open up a restaurant in the heart of Chicago’s meat-packing district, I’d have had some serious doubts.  I mean, who would want to dine beneath the shadows of those industrial slaughter-houses, amid the smell of butchered meat? I’ll tell you who.  Everyone!

He’s right.  The area – with hipstastic eateries like Girl and the Goat, Publican, and Maude’s Liquor Bar – has developed into a full-blown scene.  Still, it’s funny to hear a relative newcomer (my husband) talk about the district as if it’s passe.  It’s a funny phenomena for those of us with a longer memory.

True to the roots, Publican is an homage to the meat-packing district’s glory days, if such a thing exists.  I read that they bring in a whole pig each Friday – alive or dead, I do not know, but I believe they butcher on site -  and, from what I could tell, every ounce of that oinker, from snout to tail, is served up in one way or another.

The inside of the restaurant, cavernous with hanging globe lights and large communal tables, exudes the warmth and comradery of a German brauhaus.   Along the sides of the room, gated stalls (styes?) offer a slightly more private dining experience.  To  ensure I adequately captured the scene so I could tell you all about it, I walked around the perimeters of the room several times .  After my third lap, I ran into my husband on his way back from the bathroom.  “Are you stalking?”, he asked, only to be met by my blank, confused stare.  As is sometimes the case, I had no clue what he was talking about.  Until, of course,  he tilted  his head towards a nearby sty where I spotted one Robert Downey Jr. (!!!) seated with a group of friends.  One cool thing about my husband: he has a real knack for spotting celebrities, even if sometimes they’re just random actors who have been in one obscure commercial.

But I digress.  Here’s the thing - there’s no shortage of Publican reviews out there so I’m going to keep mine short and to the point.  If you’re hungry for meat, like to eat organs, and love, love, love all things pig, you’re going to be in hog heaven at Publican.  If you’re a vegetarian, even one who thinks they can find something yummy on almost every menu (like me), you are out of luck, my friend.  Most the vegetable courses are cooked in some sort of animal fat or with some animal part.  Interesting pickles are great, but you’re probably not going to find enough to eat or anything extraordinary about the vegetarian food you do find.  Vegetarian fare is not their gig.  Consider yourself warned.

One more thing – and I’m shocked that my husband didn’t bring this up -  I must applaud Publican’s beer menu.  It’s one of the most eclectic, extensive and all-around impressive selections I’ve ever seen.  It was, for me, a saving grace, along, of course, with the white fedora that Robert Downey Jr. was sporting.

Otom, Fulton Market

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

she says:

After our incredible experience at Moto, we decided to check out its sibling restaurant and next door neighbor, Otom, for our anniversary.

When we first arrived, I thought it would be a perfect place to take my girlfriends who are traveling to Chicago next weekend for my bachelorette soiree.  The space is chic and ultra-contemporary, with bare brick walls and white wood floors.  The starkness is offset with large striped curtains and orange chairs that reminded me of Tetris blocks.  Fabulous cocktails enhance the trendy feel and the prices are reasonable for an upscale restaurant in the warehouse district.

They’re doing a lot of things right at Otom…

  1. The Pale Moon martini, made with vodka, lychee syrup, house sour and vanilla bitters, was delicious.
  2. The butter changes daily.  Our warm bread came with truffle honey butter that nearly took my breath away.
  3. The Forager’s Plate, which is their vegetarian entrée, was quite impressive.  It also changes daily; mine was a risotto cake served with grilled baby portabellas, fiddleheads* and a variety of accompanying greens, flavored with what tasted like a sesame-based reduction.
  4.  The presentation was as artful as the interior design.

But, I was much less impressed with:

  1. The “mac and cheese” (quotation marks theirs and well-deserved) – made with trofie pasta, béchamel and peas – was bland and dry.
  2. The gnocchi in the German potato salad appetizer was so doughy that I wondered if they’d forgotten to cook it.
  3. The wait between courses and drinks was inexcusable, not that they even tried to excuse it.

Also, I must share this anecdote and warning.  Don’t put your purse on the floor. Find a way to hang it on the weird cubey chairs.  A light in the floor burned my purse so badly that the bottom peeled off and when I picked it up, it skimmed my foot and resulted in a blister.  I’m not making this up.  When we told the staff, they apologized but offered nothing to compensate for the ruined bag and seared foot.   A different kind of person would take advantage of this liability. Me?  I just blog about it.

Anyway, I may not subject my bachelorette party to Otom, but I probably will go back some time.   The good parts were excellent and I learned from my experience to avoid their botched pasta interpretations.   As for the long waits, maybe they were having a bad night.  I’ll give them another chance.  If they do me wrong again, I’ll simply place my bag on the floor lighting and stay an extra hour.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, purse fire.  That’s what I always say.

* What are fiddleheads?  They’re the adorable and tasty unfurled fronds of young fern. They look like this:

Cute, right?

he said:

I’m on a bit of an unlucky roll here. Just as it happened to me at Anteprima, I got my hopes up about Otom and was let down. However, to be fair, I would consider Anteprima to be in the ”Oh well, my expectations were too high” letdown category. Otom, for me, was in “What’s that Lassie, Otom fell down a well?” letdown category.

Going in, I was under the impression that as Moto’s sister restaurant, Otom was run by the same chef, Homaro Cantu. I thought Otom may be the cheaper bistro version of that molecular gastronomic delight. It was not, and Cantu apparently has nothing to do with this place.

That misconception is my fault, not the restaurant’s. But I don’t want you going in with the same idea.

I found the menu to be slight, and the food to be uninspired. Unlike my lovely fiance, I liked the German potato salad gnocchi, though the texture was odd. My smoked pork chop was just boring. And the mac and cheese wasn’t even worth finishing.

So, if the lady wants to try it again, I’m not sure who she’ll go with. I have no interest in going back.

Sorry that this post is so short, but like the menu, Otom left me uninspired.

Moto, Fulton Market

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

she said:

I first heard about Moto and Chef Homaro Cantu at the Museum of Science and Industry, where there was an exhibit called something like, “The Future is Now.”  The exhibit included video of Cantu making sushi with an inkjet printer and pulling other crazy sciencey stunts that I’m just not smart enough to recall.   I’ll admit, nitroglycerin infused fig bubble* doesn’t exactly make my tummy rumble, but I was totally fascinated.

I recently had a chance to check out Cantu’s edible experiments first hand when we went to Moto for my birthday.  Somewhere in-between the fourth and ninth courses, Guy said, “Ya know, this feels more like a magic show than a dinner.”  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Imagine how you’d approach food if you developed sudden semi-amnesia.  The first course (after the edible menu), for example, looks exactly like a mini-breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, an English muffin and hash browns.  So you think, hey wait a minute!  I remember breakfast.  You don’t.  The eggs are some kind of orange meringue thing, the muffin is garlic foam with a swab of cornmeal on top to resemble butter and the potatoes are, I think, scallops.

A sugar cube might be dehydrated truffle. Paper might be garlic bread. Cigar ash might be sesame.  Don’t trust your eyes.  Is it postmodern?  Metacuisine?  Not really sure, but it’s a total adventure.  Oh, and it tastes good.

Since Moto, Guy and I play a fun game where I pick an object – any object (a calculator, a necklace,  a cat) and present it to him , announcing the name of a popular food or dish.  For example, I might pick up a piece of dirty glass from the sidewalk, turn to him, and say, with gusto, “Brownie!”  It’s a hoot.

*Nitroglycerin infused fig bubble is not an actual dish.  You shouldn’t try to make it.  Figs are gross.

he said:

Not only do we both love going on adventures to new restaurants, but we’ve been talking about Moto for almost as long as we’ve been talking to each other. So it seemed like the perfect gift.

And I think it was. Actually, I know it was.

Eating at Moto was an experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It was our first birthday together, but more than that, it was a singular experience, unlike anything I’ve written about before.
Molecular Gastronomy

Moto is part of the food movement called molecular gastronomy, which according to wikipedia “is a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking.” But that makes it seem like a scientific meal. As Gal said, I think it’s more correct to say that it was like a magic show.

Here’s video of Cantu talking about how he makes his magic. Not one thing that he makes in this video was on the menu the night we went, which makes me want to go back all the more.
A Unique Experience In Every Way

 I’d recommend this restaurant a hundred times over. The staff was extremely attentive and helpful, without hovering or being overly involved. They knew so much about the food, as though they prepared it.

I’m sure if you’ve read this far, you’ve gotten an idea that it’s a pricy meal. If this was Yelp, we’d have $$$$ next to the name. But I’d say it is definitely something worth doing on the most special of occasions, like celebrating the birthday of the woman you love.  Just be prepared to fork over some loot… and then perhaps eat the fork.

Overall, it was the best dining experience I’ve ever had, thanks in no small part to my dining companion.