Chicago Restaurant Openings Winter/Spring 2014

Maya Silver and Monica Parpal |
New And Noteworthy

Japonais by Morimoto {600 West Chicago Avenue; 312.822.9600}

Japonais Restaurant and Lounge is officially entering the Iron Age—that is the Iron Chef Age—with television celebrity Masaharu Morimoto now commanding the kitchen and partnering with the restaurant. As Japonais by Morimoto redesigns its cuisine, it will also be refurbishing its space. The restaurant, located along the Chicago River, will show off its new sushi bar, as well as a Japanese vodka and whiskey bar when it reopens post-remodel this winter. Japan and Europe will still share the menu, with dishes like Tuna Pizza, but with the addition of Chef Morimoto's omakase tasting menus. Also new: culinary theater! The remodel will include an omakase open kitchen located behind the sushi bar so that diners can watch as chefs chop, roll, and charm.


Bottlefork {441 North Clark Street; 312.955.1900}

Is it a glass bottle with tines fused to its side? Is it a bottle shaped like a fork? Or is it a novel way of mingling food and drink? You’d be correct if you guessed the latter—and, luckily, you can experience this trailblazing Bottlefork concept at a new restaurant of the same name. Bottlefork, a collaboration between former Four Seasons Hotel Chicago Executive Chef Kevin Hickey and Rockit Ranch Productions, is particularly interested in the junction of food and drink. Specifically, Chef Hickey and his team plan to put drink in the food and food in the drink, and dedicate themselves to conceptualizing how the two pair most optimally. So expect beer can chicken thighs, salad-cocktail hybrids, and desserts aswim in stouts. Bottlefork is also teaming up with Ravenswood’s Begyle Brewing to produce beers with sugar beets, wild herbs, and fruits. So if you’re torn as to whether you’re a foodie or a boozehound, when Bottlefork opens in February 2014, it promises to give you the best of both worlds.


Vanille Patisserie {multiple locations}

You can now get your artisan French pastry and dessert fix at Vanille’s new location on North Clark Street. Owner and Chef Sophie Evanoff and her expert team of pastry chefs are connoisseurs of the infinite layers in a croissant and decadent chocolate bars incorporating butter caramel, toffee brittle, toasted nuts, and candied citrus peels. But there is so much more that can be procured at this patisserie. Astonish your sense of texture and beauty with an entremet—a classic French dessert with layers of mousse, crémeux, cake, and a hint of crunch. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a macaron. Or order a holiday or wedding cake that might just become the delicious life of the party.


Davanti River North {30 East Hubbard Street; 312.605.5900}

The third Chicagoland location of the notable Italian eatery, Davanti Enoteca recently opened in the Courtyard Marriot in River North. The menu is largely the same as its sister location on Taylor Street, but features Executive Chef Jaysen Euler front and center—a character with loads of experience cooking whole animals with a rustic, nose-to-tail approach. Sip on a conversation-starting cocktail like the Italiano, with Maker’s Mark, Amaro Nonino, Pierre Ferrand Cura ao, and lemon bitters ($12), before contemplating a main dish like Bistecca Davanti—grilled hanger steak, oyster mushrooms, and cipollini onions.


Godfrey and I|O Urban Roofscape, The Godfrey Hotel Chicago {127 West Huron Street at LaSalle; 312.649.2000}

New to the dining and hotel scene this year, Godfrey restaurant in the Godfrey Hotel Chicago promises to fit squarely into the upper crust of the social scene. Inspired by the early 20th century cubist movement, Godfrey holds simple geometric shapes and interlocking planes near the heart of its style sensibility. The full-service restaurant on the ground level is bold and straightforward with contemporary American and European-influenced dishes. The luxe lounge on the fourth floor spans connecting indoor and outdoor areas, letting guests transcend the space with cocktail in hand. Keep an eye on this place as the weather warms up; the retractable roof is sure to make the view of the Chicago skyline even more appealing.


Baffo Ristorante e Enoteca {44 East Grand Avenue; 312.521.8701}

Don’t you love a fine dining restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Named after the Italian word for “moustache” and inspired by the prominent facial hair of Eataly Founder Oscar Farinetti, Baffo Ristorante e Enoteca is Eataly Chicago's fine dining restaurant. Influenced by NYC's Babbo, the first Batali and Bastianich concept that opened in 1998 in NYC, Baffo Enoteca showcases an original menu and exquisite service with a healthy dash of fun. The menu features unadulterated, seasonal ingredients and unusual cuts of meat like Stuffed Pork Jowl and Antelope Chops and Sweetbreads, in addition to deliciously fresh seafood and comforting housemade pastas. Order from the expansive wine list (over 400 bottles and counting!) and finish with a sweet taste of Cioccolato—chocolate spongecake, hazelnuts, and chocolate ganache—while framed photos of moustached personalities smile on.


Bulerias Tapas {3656 North Ashland Avenue; 773.404.2855}

Picture this: bright lights, boisterous musicians, and stylish flamenco dancers, skirts a-twirl in fast rainbows of color as they spin to a rhythmic beat. “Bulerías”—the Spanish term for the grand finale of a flamenco performance—is the inspiration for the exciting and colorful restaurant on Ashland Avenue, recently renovated to accommodate about four times the seating. Guests will take in the flavors of authentic Spanish tapas by way of their energetic servers and a vibrant atmosphere. Sample larger-than-usual tapas plates, choose from five types of paella, and share a 64-ounce pitcher of fresh, fruity sangría for a night of fun. You might even learn a few new dance moves.