The 10 Most Exciting New Restaurants in Chicago Serve Crab Masala and a 1981 Red for $550

Ariel Cheung | June 24, 2019 | Food & Drink

Clockwise from left: etta's Golden Triangle cocktail is a ricch blend of Rittenhouse rye whiskey, brandy, masala, honey and lemon;
Aba's chargrilled lamb chops; a scallop rests on yuzu at Brass Heart; Cabra's chic interior.

1. Aba
The Spot Perch on the West Loop restaurant’s spacious rooftop patio for a meal so summery, the Mediterranean feels just a breeze away.
The Starter Restaurants are elevating hummus with an ever-expanding range of goodies, but Aba does it particularly well with mouthwatering short rib-topped hummus ($16).
The Bottle With a decades-spanning suite of wines by Lebanon's acclaimed Chateau Musar, guests have their pick of the litter in the 1981 red ($550), blooming with notes of sweet currant and spice.
NO. 1 on the Menu Chargrilled lamb chops ($29) on a bed of garlicky freekeh are a delightful example of how chef CJ Jacobson fuses his California roots with Mediterranean fare. 302 N. Green St.

2. Brass Heart
Who to Ask for You might not even have to ask before Beverage Director Sarah Traynor arrives to gracefully guide you through the night.
The Bottle Traynor's top pick for a special occasion is the Jacques Selosse Initial Champagne ($398).
Why We Like It Chef Matt Kerney’s down-to-earth style, honed at Longman & Eagle, is refined and his creativity put to the test with all-vegan tasting menus (plus meat-friendly counterparts).
No. 1 on the Menu The single constant on the menu is a universal dish of rice and beans, but even that is subject to Kerney’s whims, shifting from a Mexican-leaning version with salsa verde to a sturdy take touting paprika gravy and cornbread crumble. 4662 N. Broadway

3. Cabra
The Table Pull up a chair at the ceviche bar, and you might just find Stephanie Izard chatting with diners as she serves up thick cuts of Peruvian-style ceviche and other tantalizing dishes.
What the Chef Likes Izard particularly loves the pork shank ($34), cooked sous vide and then fried for a perfectly crisp skin. Fold it into sweet potato flatbread with pickled sides for an ideal bite.
The Cocktail There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, but the Selva Baja ($13) is a particularly tasty blend of Knob Creek rye whiskey, pineapple and manzanilla sherry.
Why Foodies Like It Izard is persistently one of Chicago’s top chefs, and Cabra marks her delightful delve into Peruvian-inspired bites with the detailed, fun-loving flare she is known for. 200 N. Green St.

4. etta
No. 1 on the Menu Nothing bests the Pig Picnic ($56), a delectable pairing of crispy pork belly and fire-roasted shoulder with marinated cucumbers and serrano peppers.
The Secret Special For those in the know, etta’s bone marrow ($18) is a delicious starter that comes overflowing with oxtail and bacon jam—and the off-menu shot of bourbon doesn’t hurt, either.

Why We Like It There’s something to be said about the way etta produces tasty dishes with upscale ingredients in a setting that is familial and comforting.
Why Foodies Like It Maple & Ash chef Danny Grant proves he can do neighborhood casual just as smoothly as glitzy steakhouse fare—all while putting that wood-fired oven to great use. 1840 W. North Ave.

Clockwise from left: Jeong's delicate salmon tartare; the sunny interior of Pacific Standard Time; sashimi at Yūgen.

5. Jeong
The Cocktail We loved every drink we tried, but the Roasted Barley ($15) is a malty mix of rum, grapefruit and amaro that really satisfies.
The Dessert The mochi ($11), topped with shingles of omija berry meringue and rice wine sherbet, evolves beautifully with every bite.
What The Chef Likes Many of chef Dave Park’s dishes are re-creations of dishes he grew up eating, including the tteokbokki ($14), toasted in schmaltz and topped with charred cabbage and quail egg.
Why Foodies Like It Park has been a culinary darling ever since opening suburban Hanbun, but his new West Town digs provide ample scope for his imagination as he reinvents Korean dishes in beautifully styled ways. 1460 W. Chicago Ave.

6. Pacific Standard Time
The Table Sit near the open kitchen, where you’ll have a full view of chef Erling Wu-Bower and his team pulling dishes from the wood-fired ovens.
No. 1 on the Menu The roasted ribeye ($79) checks every box: it's sourced from Slagel Family Farm, touts a perfect crispness and is full of flavor gleaned from the hearth.

The Dessert Pastry chef Natalie Saben's desserts are all delightful, but the best is her huckleberry sundae ($12), topped with spiced meringue and buttermilk cake.
What's Up Next One year after Underscore Hospitality launched PST in partnership with One Off Hospitality, it will open The Laurel Room, a seasonal rooftop eatery upstairs, featuring Baja-leaning bites and designed by the same firm that just won the James Beard Award for PST. 141 W. Erie St.

7. Yūgen
The Secret Pairing An off-menu sake pairing ($70-$110) is the way to go for a stunning range of flavor and texture found in the versatile rice wine, perfectly complementing each dish.
Who to Ask For Beverage Director Olivia Noren's expert recommendations as a sommelier and certified sake professional will elevate any meal.
The Table Nestled in the back of the dining room, the best table in the house happens to provide the best view of Yūgen’s kitchen.
No. 1 on the Menu While the contemporary Japanese tasting menus change frequently, it’s clear why the crab rice has stuck around: Its bold, funky notes gleaned from egg yolk and roe make for an unforgettable dish. 652 W. Randolph St.

Clockwise from top left: Le Sud's roast chicken; Grand Trunk Road's shahi kachori ($7) folds potatoes and tamarind in a crispy semolina shell; seasonal banchan and short rib ($38) are piled onto perilla and sesame leaves at Passerotto.

Le Sud
Why Foodies Like It This French Mediterranean eatery breaks all the rules—its Roscoe Village location is off the beaten path, and it refuses to be showy. It shines nevertheless with traditional dishes elevated by smart touches.
No. 1 on the Menu Duck is perfected here, with breast ($27) pan-roasted and brushed with a lavender-honey glaze that complements the rich bird.
The Table Guilt-free dining has never been easier with the addition of Table23. It seats up to four guests, and 23 percent of the bill is donated to a local charity.
The Bottle The 2016 Emile Beyer Eichberg Grand Cru riesling ($95) combines old Alsace vines with biodynamic techniques for a high-energy, zesty white wine. 2301 W. Roscoe St.

The Starter Silky slices of scallop crudo ($11) are doused in a housemade XO sauce and adorned with dollops of soy-onion puree and citron.
The Bottle The Argentine 2014 Tikal Natural ($52) is a lovely fruit-forward blend of biodynamically grown malbec and syrah.
No. 1 on the Menu Served with seasonal banchan and large enough for two people, the kalbi glazed short rib ($38) is a toothsome taste of chef Jennifer Kim’s smart treatment of heftier proteins.
Why Foodies Like It Kim’s delicate fare delighted at Snaggletooth, but she ups the ante here. Her distinctive culinary voice shines through with Korean fare kissed by Italian influences, exhibited in dishes like ddukbokki lamb ragu. 5420 N. Clark St.

10. Grand Trunk Road
No. 1 on the menu Crab masala ($29) is an intriguing take on an Indian cuisine staple. The rich, sweet notes of the king crab play off the smooth sauce teeming with tangy ginger and mustard seed.
What the Chef Likes Chef Behzad Khan gets particularly excited while describing the Malai Murgh ($18), a skewer of chicken marinated in mozzarella, green cardamom and housemade Garam masala.
The Dessert The meethi puri ($7 for three) is a delightful bite of crisp pastry filled with turmeric-tinged lemon curd.
Why We Like It Grand Trunk Road does a spectacular job of bringing new life to traditional Indian dishes from a Pakistani-born chef, who worked at Topolobampo and Moto before saving up for a place of his own. 1417 W. Fullerton Ave.


Photography by: Aba and etta photos by tim mccoy | brass heart photo by tom gavin/courtesy of brass heart | cabra photo by jason robert scott | jeong photo by anthony tahlier | pacific standard time photo
by jason little | le sud photo by neil burger | yugen photo by neil burger | passerotto photo by mistey nguyen/courtesy of passerotto | grand trunk road photo by anthony tahlier