Unless you’re a one sixtyblue regular, you could walk in tonight and not notice that Martial Noguier’s contemporary American, French-rooted cuisine has been replaced by food that seems to reach around the world and back. But if you are a regular, you might flinch at the sight of shrimp dumplings in dashi broth, hanger steak over chilaquiles and duck breast bathed in “Thai barbecue sauce.” That would be the work of Michael McDonald. No, not the former Doobie Brother known for achingly annoying “Yah Mo B There” renditions. This McDonald has taken over the kitchen while Noguier has moved on to Café des Architectes, and along with pastry chef Stephanie Prida, he’s been tapped to usher in one sixtyblue 3.0.
For the most part, the duo is successful at injecting a fresh feel to the menu (the decor remains the same: fairly upscale, tasteful, comfortable), with only a couple of missteps one would normally equate with inexperience or youth. Turns out that McDonald, despite looking to be in his 30s, has two decades of experience, including time as executive chef at both Charlie Trotter’s C in Los Cabos and Restaurant Charlie in Vegas. So surely it was a snoozing line cook who let “slow-cooked” pork belly leave the kitchen as tough as leather and equally flavorful. And maybe it was a hungover cook who left the line to refill his soda and roasted the pheasant a good ten minutes past “done,” robbing the bird of most of its juice.
So then who’s responsible for the most delicious bites? We’ll let the kitchen crew fight it out, but in the meantime, don’t miss the Berkshire pork chop, a lesson in flavor and technique that includes fluffy spaetzle sporting crispy edges, sauerkraut that’s both creamy and acidic, and a thick chop bursting with salty-sweet juice. Go for the chop, get your date to order the beautiful cod filet over butter-soft short ribs, and trade plates halfway. But don’t just jump to entrées—you’d miss the silky house-cured salmon, dotted with crème fraîche and fanned over crispy hash browns flanked by lemon curd. Equally good are the pillows of leek gnocchi, truffle-topped and swimming in a leek emulsion rich enough to sink your stomach for any chance of dessert.
But leaving without trying Prida’s desserts would only haunt you later, once the rising star gets heaped with accolades. She has a knack for balance, isn’t afraid of the salt shaker (key in sweets) and thoroughly embraces the season. None of her half-dozen plates miss the mark, but if you must show restraint, settle for the dense chocolate panna cotta dressed with peanut crisp and coffee ice cream or the cheesecake custard, plated with velvety lemon sherbet and slices of candied Buddha’s hand citrus. If this is version 3.0, let’s hope there’s not a newfangled version in the works—we’ve already bought into this one.
|Venue name:||one sixtyblue (CLOSED)||Contact:|
1400 W Randolph St
|Cross street:||Ogden Ave|
|Opening hours:||Dinner (closed Sun)|
|Transport:||El stop: Green, Pink to Ashland. Bus: 9, 20, 65.|
|Price:||Average main course: $25|
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