French Press 

Two new downtown restaurants look across the pond. Plus: underground dining for Valentine’s

The same week the New York Times erroneously identified him as the chef-owner of Owen & Engine (he is neither), Martial Noguier, formerly of Cafe des Architectes and One SixtyBlue, opened his new restaurant—the less than felicitously named Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash, 312-944-8400)—in the Gold Coast space that used to house Eve. He and owners John Ward and Matt Fisher have redecorated, replacing Eve's pale, silvery tones with dark woods and deep reds. Charcuterie, cheese, and small plates will be available at the expanded, double-sided bar, but the dinner menu focuses on traditional French fare such as whitefish with green-lentil vinaigrette, flatiron steak with shallot puree, and lamb shank with couscous. Bistronomic is currently open for dinner only, with plans to start lunch and brunch in about a month.

Another French restaurant, this one from R.J. and Jerrod Melman, also debuts this week. Paris Club (59 W. Hubbard, 312-595-0800), promising reinterpreted French classics, was slated to open in the former Brasserie Jo space on Wednesday. "We hope to take the formality out of the French dining experience and give people another option that's more affordable and approachable," their principal collaborator, chef Jean Joho (Everest), said in a press release. Small plates include escargots, mini croque monsieurs, and house-made charcuterie and patés; a "luxury" section of the menu has offerings like osetra caviar and foie gras with caviar.

The 5,000-square-foot space, designed by NYC-based Monolayer, has restored exposed-brick walls, distressed-wood floors, and tables made from reclaimed barn wood. There's also a private-event space with a capacity of up to 90, and an indoor-outdoor second-floor lounge is in the works for summer, when the dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows will open onto the sidewalk.

In addition to Joho, the Melman brothers have recruited a team that includes executive chef Tim Graham (Brasserie Jo, Tru). The restaurant will be open late: till 3 AM on Saturday, till 2 AM Thursday and Friday, and till midnight Monday through Wednesday.

Chef Iliana Regan hosts a 14-course meal with pairings for Valentine's Day through her natural foods company One Sister Inc., which specializes in underground dining. An avid gardener and forager who sells her handmade pierogi at farmers' markets and stores around town, Regan has worked at Trio and informally interned at Schwa. Recently she's been hosting regular underground dinners in her Andersonville home, seating up to 12 diners at a communal table and serving ten or more courses with pairings for $90 a head. "I've only so far gotten good response and no hate mail, so I think I'm on the right track," she said via e-mail.

Courses for the Valentine's Day dinner (which will be served at tables for two rather than a communal one) include hand-cut pasta with foie gras ragu and black truffle, oyster with carrot and horseradish caviar and banana puree, and duck mole with pickled black beans, seed puree, corn tortilla foam, and fried yucca. Her sketch of the menu wraps up with a dish described as a "traditional egg custard infused with dandelion, a chocolate sauce, beets cooked sous vide, a chocolate molasses cake crumble, and a beet and red wine vinegar gastrique." Seatings for the dinners, which are $120 plus tip, will be at 6 and 9 PM on Saturday 2/12 and Monday 2/14. Reservations are required; call 773-598-0602 or e-mail ilianaregan@yahoo.com.

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