Monday, January 31, 2011

Where A Rising Star Chef Dines On Off Days . . .

Dave Beran (left) with Grant Achatz. (Photo: Grant Achatz)

It's not every day you get to sit next to a world-class chef for two hours. So when I got my chance at the Grand Chefs Gala Friday, I didn't let it go to waste.

I was lucky enough to sit next to Dave Beran, the chef de cuisine of Alinea as well as chef of the upcoming and highly anticipated Next restaurant in the Warehouse District.

Beran was pretty tight-lipped on Next's opening date, yet very eager to share some of his favorite local dining destinations when he gets a rare night off.

Blackbird, he says, is as "solid as they come," and it was one of the restaurants he was excited to visit when he started making real money as a chef. He feels that the food is always consistent, unfussy and if he could, he'd eat there at least twice a week.

The Bristol's burger is one of the regular highlights on the menu. (Photo: The Bristol)

Beran's a fan of The Bristol for two reasons: He used to work with Executive Chef Chris Pandel at Tru, and he loves the restaurant's neighborhood vibe.

With so many pizzerias around town, you'd think it would be hard for him to choose. But as an East Coast native, he favors thin crust over Chicago's deep-dish style, which means Pequod's gets his love.

And the rising culinary star gave the most enthusiastic nod to
TAC Quick Thai Kitchen in Irving Park. What the unassuming BYO restaurant lacks in decor, he says, makes up for it with the menu.

He recommends diners bypass the "American" menu for the traditional "secret" one, and order dishes like Koong Chae Nam Pa (raw shrimp with garlic, Thai chili and lime juice) and Kuay Teaw Reua ("Boat noodle:" brisket, beef balls, pork skins, chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, and thin rice vermicelli in a spicy/sweet/pungent "soup").

To beat the weekend rush, he suggests going to TAC early in the week.

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