May 30, 2008

Bistronomic is a phrase I wish I'd coined. But I'm just quoting Graham Elliot Bowles, an F&W Best New Chef in 2004, who's getting ready to soft open Graham Elliot in Chicago tonight and has no shortage of genius ideas. My similarly genius colleague Ratha Tep previewed the place a couple weeks ago; here are a few more details from GEB himself.

*The music you hear in the dining room will be mostly GEB himself, playing original music on his guitar. He's also putting out a call to local bands in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to provide more of the restaurant's soundtrack ("We don't just support farms, we support local bands, too," says Bowles). (In fact, if you go to grahamelliot.com, you'll hear Suvjan Steven's 'Come on Feel the Illinoise.')

*Everything at Graham Elliot will be simplified for an experience he calls "fine dining redefined." Namely: All dishes will be served on the same large white (Ikea) plate. All wine will be served in one kind of glass. All food will be eaten with one kind of fork, knife and spoon. "This isn't a $200 a head place," says Bowles. "There's no suit-and-tie dress code." That extends to the "uniform"  the front and back of the house wear which is exactly the same—Levi's 501 jeans, brown tee shirts and Converse sneakers.

*The menu is divided into five categories featuring Bowles's amazingly creative but now accessible food: cold (signature Caesar salad with parmesan fluff); hot (aged cheddar risotto); sea (chorizo-crusted scallops); land (grilled pork rack with root beer barbecue sauce); sweet (molten carrot cake). The wine list is divided into the same five categories.

*Bowles doesn't believe in letting diners fill up on bread. Instead, he'll serve popcorn, in flavors that you never would have dreamed of (right now, he's talking spicy tomato fennel pollen popcorn).

*Bowles does believe in edible cocktails—for instance, a "pina colada" comprised of toasted coconut panna cotta, rum sorbet and whatever else he can think of that references the all purpose drink.

*Look for his scratch & sniff business cards, coming soon.

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