Thursday, October 18, 2012

A First Look at the Menu From New Leopold Chef

Leopold Executive Chef Michael Dean Reynolds. (Photos: Leopold)

By the time the smoked rabbit leg arrived to the table we were completely stuffed. We had already consumed 11 courses—and there were seven more to come!—but we couldn't resist this glistening piece of meat that was drizzled in rabbit reduction and sat atop rich layers of lentils, dandelion greens and mission figs.

For me it was the standout dish of the special media tasting from Michael Dean Reynolds, Leopold's new executive chef. It represented the type of hearty fare he cranked out when he was chef de cuisine at The Gage for five years.

And while The Gage is more formal with a downtown price tag, the Belgian-inspired Leopold is very neighborhood friendly with entrees not exceeding $23. Reynolds has also scaled down the menu from some of the heavier items (though he left the poutine and pierogi) and integrated his lighter style and approach to seasonal cuisine.

One of the biggest additions is the plats du jour, where he'll do daily specials such as braised short ribs on Wednesdays, a white bean cassoulet with duck confit and sausage on Thursdays, and a $30 three-course, prix-fixe mussels dinner on Sundays. Also, look for a Belgian-influenced brunch to start on Nov. 11.

Here are some of the highlights of the new fall menu:

Wicker Park's Late-Night Hang Rodan Goes Legit With New Chefs, Menus & Cocktails

Rodan's new Korean BBQ of marinated beef kalbi, hot rock, steamed rice and house-made kimchee. (Photos: Rodan)

It's been a few weeks now since Wicker Park's Rodan had a dramatic makeover under new owner, Eric Chaleff. The self-proclaimed heavy metal guitarist also curated the Asian-inspired beverage program and recruited a talented team to help him fulfill his dream of making the late-night hang a legit dining destination.

Corey Gillom (NoMI, Japonais, Longman & Eagle, The Slurping Turtle) and Michael Torto (Lockdown Bar & Grill) are behind the new menu with dishes that are contemporary and focused, yet remain neighborhood friendly. There's nothing above $15, with highlights ranging from the curry croquettes that come with a dill yogurt sauce to bao steamed buns filled with tofu, pulled pork or beer-battered fish.

What's certain to be a scene stealer will be the burgers—which have the influence from Torto's stellar days over at popular burger destination Lockdown. This time, they're dripping with Asian flavor, from the black bean burger with wasabi mayo to the Korean kimchee burger with pulled pork, chili aioli and a fried egg. He's also created a banh mi that comes with fried chicken, lemongrass tofu or pulled pork and topped with mushroom pate, pickled carrot, daikon and jalapeno.