Executive Chef Paul Kahan has been royalty within Chicago’s food scene for many years. He opened the James Beard-awarded, Blackbird, in the late ’90s. Since then, he has been pleasing palates with dishes from his kitchens at The Publican and Nico Osteria. Today, I decided to check out Chef Paul’s new lunch menu at his much-loved Avec.
Avec is located just 1 block south and 1 1/2 blocks west of the Clinton ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green and Pink Lines.
It has been a long time since I dined at Avec. Shame on me! I’ve been missing out in a big way. Here’s how my lunch went down:
The space at Avec is very casual. It’s a long galley set-up with wood paneling and an open kitchen. I decided to sit at the bar. While Chef Paul is known for his masterful meat skills, he his also quite the genius when it comes to preparing fish and veggies. The latter is how I rolled today.
I started off with a half order of these charred sweet potatoes. They were dressed with sweet pomegranate seeds, cipollini onions, tahini, parsley and mint. Wow! This is one of the very best things I ever put in my mouth. Truth! The balance of sweet, tart, smoky, lemony and verdant made my tongue sing 🙂
Next up, I chose this roasted trout tartine. It was set atop a slice of toasted bread that was dressed with walnut-beet muhammara (a red pepper dip). The fish was topped with sumac (from a lemony-tasting plant), sliced onions and radishes. A touch of mint leaves helped balance out all the flavors. Chef Paul does a really great job at using fresh herbs, especially mint, in his fish and veggie dishes.
Mint is a common addition to Mediterranean food in Italy, Greece and Lebanon. It is so nice that he carries on that tradition here in Chicago. Many restaurants do not.
The desserts here look and sound wonderful. While I had no room for a big dessert, my friendly bartender/server suggested I try Avec’s own version of a Nutter Butter® bar. It is tiny. One or two bites (depending on the size of your mouth and your level of self-control) and you’re done. But, it packs a big, satisfying, peanut-buttery punch! Just get one!
I left Avec with a huge smile on my face and big plans to return soon, so I can attack the rest of their menu, including Sunday brunch.
Avec is located at 615 W. Randolph St. It’s open 7 days a week. Click here for more information.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Green or Pink Lines to Avec. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive.