Webster's Wine Bar: Telegraph, transformed | Bleader

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Webster's Wine Bar: Telegraph, transformed

Posted By on 10.14.14 at 02:00 PM

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What's in a name, anyway? Webster's Wine Bar, which for nearly 20 years occupied a two-story space on Webster near the Chicago River, moved this summer into the former Telegraph Wine Bar space in Logan Square. Telegraph closed in June when executive chef Johnny Anderes moved on to other endeavors—but for the most part, the rest of the kitchen staff stayed put. Tom MacDonald and Janan Asfour, owners of both Webster's and Telegraph, promoted Telegraph sous chef Aaron Mooney to executive chef. This isn't Telegraph with a different name, though: while the bar's two rooms look much the same as they did before, Mooney's tapas-focused menu bears little resemblance to either Telegraph's food or the fare at the original Webster's.

Salt cod croquettes
Though brief (about 20 dishes in total), the menu covers the essentials: fried food, seafood, meat, cheese, and vegetables. Some dishes, like crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside salt cod croquettes blanketed in lemony roasted tomato aioli, are classically Spanish. Others, like arancini filled with smoked caciocavallo cheese that's beautifully complemented by a slightly sweet tomato jam, stray to other parts of Europe.

Nantucket Bay scallops
Seafood is treated with care here, and both Nantucket Bay scallops and Spanish octopus were perfectly tender. The silky scallops arrived atop a small puddle of roasted butternut squash puree, the baconlike "crispy ham" that accompanied them offsetting their natural sweetness, while the octopus was served with white beans, chorizo, and almond soubise. The one thing I wouldn't order again was the pork rinds: gloriously airy and crunchy at first bite, they quickly dissolved into a fatty pork paste that stubbornly glued itself to our teeth. Even then, the initial crunch and the seasoning of espelette pepper, salt, and lime were addictive enough that we kept going back for more, but eventually we had to give up.

Pork rinds
I ended up being glad that we'd saved room for dessert, though. Dulce de leche ebelskiver—fluffy Danish pancake spheres filled with a warm caramel-like confection—turned out to be a cultural mash-up so perfect that I'm surprised I've never seen it before. The other dessert option was a slice of pie from Bang Bang, one of my favorite makers of pie in the city—but I'd still choose the ebelskiver every time.

Webster's Wine Bar, 2601 N. Milwaukee, 773-292-9463, websterwinebar.com

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