The Savoy | Restaurant review
Wicker Park gets the raw bar it deserves.
There are a lot of nice things about the Savoy, not the least of which is the fact that the seafood it sources is lovely, and in a city—heck, on a planet—where oysters are always a gamble, a reliable oyster slinger is something like gastronomical Xanax. But more on that in a minute. What if, somehow, you spilled one of those oysters down your shirt? If Paco, one member of the Savoy’s fleet, saw it happen, he’d not walk but run to you—clean, damp towel and club soda in hand. The guy’s a pro. He’s no fluke, either. On another visit I was served by the restaurant’s manager, who was everything you want in a server. Except for one thing: He, like the rest of his staff, starts off meals here a little too leisurely.
It’s a funny quirk about the way the Savoy does things. Put in front of you upon arrival is an enormous sheet of paper, printed front and back with the restaurant’s wines, cocktails, beers and spirits. You’ll flip the paper over looking for the food, but you won’t find it. The food menu comes later. First, the Savoy wants you to drink. I like the concept of a cocktail moment as much as the next guy, but cocktails aren’t where the Savoy made me happiest. Every single one of them features absinthe, some less so and others more, and while I have no problem with a little anise in my drink, I don’t know that I find that flavor most compatible with seafood. Or any food, really.
No, at the Savoy, I don’t want to drink. I want to eat. I want to get my hands on those oysters, which come with a smoked tomato cocktail sauce and a wasabi mignonette, two twists on condiments I normally prefer untwisted but here heighten the notes of seawater. I want the snow crab legs, presented in a manner that makes the sweet meat just a little bit hard to remove from the shell (whatever, I’ll work for it, it’s worth it). I want the crab cake because it’s mostly crab, the scallops because they’re beautifully cooked. As for the dry and tomatoless panzanella, I’ll take a pass.
For me, the meal slows down from here. Moving forward means going to entrées, which are good but not as scumptious as the small plates. The “light fare” portion of the menu is not messing around: It is seriously light, the fish (roasted, steamed or sauteed) served with nothing but some greens and some rice. Nothing against simplicity, but there’s a fine line between light and boring, and this crosses it. Could chef Brian Greene give the people a pan sauce? I mean, I know he can, because he does plenty of sauce in the more elaborate entrées, lovely combinations like halibut with addictive little shishito peppers, meaty sturgeon with a creamy corn sauce, a very smoky chicken with an impressively crispy skin. Nice plates, but like I said, I’ll stick with the raw bar, and, for that matter, the bar in general (where it’s easier to ignore the awkward and conceptually half-baked space). You can get a nice plate of fish at many places in Wicker Park. But a Letherbee G&T, a good plate of oysters and a creamy slice of peanut butter pie? That’s a different story.