In the About section of the website for the hotly anticipated Giant Restaurant in Chicago, chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader make a heartfelt vow: “We promise to make simple, delicious (slightly cheffy) food for our people to eat.” That self-proclaimed cheffiness comes across in dishes that blend the uber-comfortable with the unexpected—a Jonah crab salad with waffle fries… tomato "sortalini" that foregoes the technical definition of the pasta but goes long on flavor… sweet corn that gets Pad Thai treatment (chili, peanut, scallion)… You get the point.
So it’s unsurprising that beverage director Josh Perlman’s wine list would follow suit: fun wines that deviate beyond the classics but are delicious despite their obscure appellation or grape names. There’s a smattering of pét-nats, a Vermentino from California and one from Corsica, and an amphora-aged red from France’s Savoie. “The last restaurant I worked in had a very focused Mediterranean wine list,” says Perlman. “With the type of food Jason and Ben were putting together here, I saw an opportunity to be like a rebellious kid.” Now, he’s serving the kinds of wines he likes to drink. He calls them “conversation starters”.
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“Pairing-wise, a lot of these wines are very aromatic and acid-driven, which works so well with the dishes we have,” he adds. And diners have so far been receptive to the program. “We have a very open-minded clientele who want to try new things. The best response I’ve seen is people raving about how cool something tastes because it’s not what they were expecting.”