Brothers Alex, Anthony, and Adrian Basich teamed up with Anthony’s wife, designer Laura Basich, to open VINTAGE WINE BAR, an unpretentious Wicker Park spot with loungy armchairs, a cozy fireplace, and canvases of graffitilike modern art. The Basiches reject the snobbishness of typical wine bars. “We want people to drink what works for their palate, not what the rules tell you,” says Alex. Descriptions of grape varietals are printed above each category on the mostly domestic wine list, which includes about 85 bottles (all except 3 under $50, and 27 costing less than $25) and 22 by-the-glass options. The list is easy to navigate–there aren’t many oddball or challenging wines, but rather an assortment of food-friendly selections like a 2003 Villa Maria sauvignon blanc from New Zealand ($24), a 2001 Marcus Molitor Riesling from Germany ($34), a 2001 Hill of Content grenache shiraz from Australia ($25), and a 2002 Brooks pinot noir from Oregon ($39). Chef Rachid El Moussaouiti sticks to small plates, two of which easily make a meal. The three salads–Caesar with a chicken option, house with Dijon vinaigrette, and pear with mixed field greens, blue cheese, and spiced pecans–are big and tasty. The petite filet mignon is marinated in rosemary with roasted garlic, green beans, sauteed watercress, and a mushroom jus; the crab cakes come with a zippy chipotle aioli sauce; the mussels are steamed in white wine and served with a tomato-herb sauce; and a grilled loin of pork is topped with a robust mustard chutney. Vintage Wine Bar is at 1942 W. Division, 773-772-3400.
Angela Hepler and Susan Thompson, part owners of Sushi Wabi, and Jill Barron, one of the cooks there, have teamed up to open DE CERO, a casual dining room down the block. The new restaurant’s name means “from scratch,” and the food–coastal Mexican cuisine–is made fresh with attention to detail. The guacamole is seasoned with garlic, onion, and jalapenos, and the dark mole contains the holy trinity of chilies–pasilla, ancho, and mulato–blended with peanuts and raisins. Plates of soft-shell tacos ($2.50-$3.50 apiece) with fillings like ahi tuna and mango, grilled marlin, or shredded chicken fly from the exposed kitchen at a dizzying pace. They’re unsauced, but the $6 trio of homemade salsas–verde, picante, and chunky pico de gallo, served with chips–complement them well. Other appetizers are pricier: char-grilled octopus costs $8, and the chicken sopes (masa boats of shredded chicken with chipotle, beans, and sour cream) are $6. Entrees include grilled chicken mole, shrimp fajitas, carne asada, and a 16-ounce pork chop. The fruity margaritas and daiquiris blended with herbs–combinations include strawberry and mint, banana and dill, and pear and cilantro–are refreshing and not too sweet, but they don’t come close to the superlative house margarita with fresh-squeezed lime juice and homemade sour mix. De Cero is at 814 W. Randolph, 312-455-8114.
The upscale Turkish restaurant TURQUOISE is the latest addition to Roscoe Village’s smorgasbord of dining destinations. Given its location (on the ground floor of a new condo development) and decor (dark wood floors, white linen, and red halogen lights), it’s not surprising that its prices are higher than those at most ethnic restaurants. Appetizers hover around $7 and entrees climb into the high teens. But dishes like the sogurme (smoked chunks of eggplant in creamy yogurt with lots of garlic), pilaki (fresh sardines with pearl onions, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice), and the house salad (a piquant and refreshing medley of red cabbage, arugula, red onion, and romaine lettuce in a lemon-herb dressing) are worth a little extra. Casual options include kebabs of beef, lamb, or herb-marinated chicken accompanied by red peppers and grilled vegetables and served on a square of homemade flatbread. Salt-crusted sea bass is a house specialty–it’s flaky and tender and comes steaming hot out of the crust, which is removed tableside. The accompanying potato souffle is more like a gratin–chunks of potatoes baked until brown with cream. There’s also a smattering of Americanized dishes like sesame-encrusted tuna, turkey burgers, and a lamb wrap. The global wine list is limited and moderately priced. The service could be more efficient. Turquoise is at 2147 W. Roscoe, 773-549-3523.
Other Recent Openings
Amore, 1330 W. Madison, 312-829-3333. Italian with easy access to the United Center and a free shuttle to get you there.
Babylon Kitchen, 2023 N. Damen, 773-342-7482. Middle Eastern with hookah smoking late into the night.
Cafe Furaibo, 2907 N. Lincoln, 773-472-7017. This tiny corner space, home to a host of Asian eateries over the years, goes Japanese.
Drake Bros. Steak House, 140 E. Walton, 312-932-4626. The former Oak Terrace, transformed into a steak house with a fabulous view of the lake.
La Fette, 163 W. North, 312-397-6300. Franco-American bistro offering a frequently changing five-course prix fixe menu.
42n Latitude, 4500 N. Lincoln, 773-907-2226. Ambitious bar food and a 42″ plasma-screen TV in Lincoln Square.
Icosium Kafe, 2433 N. Clark, 773-404-1300. Quaint Algerian restaurant in the former Crepes de Paris space.
Improv Kitchen, 3419 N. Clark, 773-868-6423. At this Wrigleyville venue, chef Christy Steinmeier serves gourmet food while actors perform for each table.
Islands, 3856 N. Ashland, 773-871-5585. Bar and grill with Caribbean and American food.
Kaze, 2032 W. Roscoe, 773-327-4860. Small plates of Japanese fare from executive chef Macku, formerly at Heat and Mirai, are served at this sleek Roscoe Village place.
Red Eyes Coffee, 4164 N. Lincoln, 773-327-9478. North Center cafe serving sandwiches, soups, and Homer’s ice cream.
Skylight Bar and Grille, 2824 N. Ashland, 773-883-7297. Sports-oriented tavern in the former Raymond’s space.
Sunrise Cafe, 1701 W. Foster, 773-989-4220. Korean, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese fusion in the former Taste of Heaven space.
Toucan, 4603 N. Lincoln, 773-989-9000. Caribbean in Lincoln Square.
Wokki Asian Eatery, 818 W. Fullerton, 773-327-7601. Pan-Asian near Lincoln Avenue, mostly for carryout and delivery.
Crepes de Paris, 2433 N. Clark; Earth Mothers, 738 N. Wells; Erawan Royal Thai Cuisine, 729 N. Clark; Joe’s Crab Shack, 745 N. Wells; Mi Ciudad, 3041 W. Irving Park; Ohba, 2049 W. Division; Pepe’s, 3856 N. Ashland; Prego, 2901
N. Ashland; Trio, 1625 Hinman, Evanston (scheduled to reopen in late August serving casual small-plate cuisine.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/A. Jackson.