Thursday, November 1, 2012

On the restaurant scene: OON makes a splash without even opening

Posted By on 11.01.12 at 04:00 PM

Utterly corrupting op la with pork belly, Bentons country ham, Chinese sausage, and a pork roll

A few years back Reader food writer Mike Sula had little but praise for Matt Eversman, opening chef at the West Loop Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Sisters. Young and with not much more than culinary school, an externship at Charlie Trotter's, and a line-cook gig under his belt, Eversman was nevertheless coming up with dishes "as audacious as grilled confit octopus clinging to a stretch of rice dyed black with cuttlefish ink" and an "utterly corrupting op la" with fried eggs, pork belly, Benton's country ham, Chinese sausage, and a pork bun. He drew praise from others as well—the Trib's Phil Vettel gave the 34-seat Saigon Sisters a "smiley-face review," and Time Out's readers named Eversman 2011's Breakout Chef of the Year. Then he split, leaving after seven months to open his own place.

Blame the money guys. "When I was approached, it was kinda out of nowhere," Eversman told Vettel last May. "But when you get an opportunity like that . . . you gotta take advantage of it. Any chef would tell you it's their dream, to really get a chance to explore their creativity."

At that time the project was slated to open at the end of 2011. The name, OON, and the location—a prime spot on Randolph Street just across from the Girl & the Goat—were settled before too long, but as is not uncommon, the opening got pushed back, first to early 2012, then to July, then to August, and now to . . . later this year, maybe? The chairs have arrived, at any rate.

This week, in the meantime, Eversman took a turn in the Sun-Times's Daily Splash, offering "advice on what it takes to make it as a chef."

Well and good, but what does OON mean? you ask. "Not what you think" the restaurant's website says coyly. ("Out of nowhere" says Michigan Avenue magazine.)

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