What to order at Nightwood
End the year by going to one of the best restaurants of 2009.
THE LIVE-BY-THE-SEASONS LAST SUPPER
In this year’s flurry of remarkable restaurant openings, the excitement of a new place is often fleeting. But some, like Nightwood (which opened six months ago), are born with a certain maturity and then continue to grow over time, which keeps the buzz steady. The service here—professional, informed, wholly unpretentious—shone from the outset; the ambience is understated and inviting. Before you even think about the food, you’re going to want to angle for a table: The best ones for a smaller group are along the windows in the upstairs dining room, while the intimate downstairs “wine room” has two long communal tables ideal for groups of 10 or 12.
But it’s the seriousness with which the owners, Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds, and their chef de cuisine, Jason Vincent, approach the seasons that’s the true draw: The menu changes constantly, expressing a rare, unrelenting energy. You’ll want to start with a cocktail, preferably two. That list is seasonal, too, but anything classic and suited for cold weather (a Sazerac, an old-fashioned) will be familiar yet intriguing.
On to the food. If there is chicken-liver pâté on the menu, consider appetizers a done deal: It will be nothing but rich, smooth and deep. Most likely there will be chicken and trout available as well—both are crisp-skinned on the outside and meaty on the inside, giving off gentle whispers of smoke. And of the desserts, the tarts, which started with rhubarb back in June and moved on through to pumpkin in fall, have been models of simplicity and perfection. And if none of these things are on the menu? Well, then you’re in for something really exciting. —JK
2119 S Halsted St, 312-526-3385
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